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Police in the UK are laying off on arresting cannabis users

British chief constables can officially lighten up

In what for some is a controversial move and for others simple logic, the National Police Chiefs’ Council has given officers the go ahead to stop arresting cannabis users. Instead of immediate prosecution, police will advise users to seek treatment – but there is no pressure on them to do so.

The NPCC’s spokesperson on drugs, Jason Harwin, said in a statement: “There is strong evidence to suggest that recommending minor offenders for early intervention treatment instead of pursuing convictions can prevent re-offending.”

As reported by the Times, Harwin announced that this new policy aims to provide “the best outcome” for both cannabis users and the justice system. Research has found that police waste one million hours each year attempting to enforce the ban on weed, so this could be a smart move that both saves funds and stops ruining lives over small-time drug charges.

This decision follows the chief constable of the West Midlands force, Dave Thompson, admitting last week that his officers avoid giving official warnings to young people using cannabis as it would potentially be “disastrous for their life chances”.

It’s a move that softens the UK’s heavy-handed attitude towards the drug, after smoking weed was legalised in Canada last year, and British doctors were recently given the right to prescribe cannabis to treat conditions including severe epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.

Cannabis is currently classified as a Class B drug in the UK, which means being caught in possession can result in a prison sentence of up to five years, in addition to an unlimited fine. Those found dealing or growing cannabis will also be fined, and can be charged with a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

The NPCC confirmed that police will continue to pursue organised dealing of cannabis. “There are a range of options for dealing with those found in possession of cannabis or who cultivate the plant that are proportionate to individual circumstances,” Harwin clarified. “These include out-of-court disposals and cannabis warnings, as well as prosecution.”

The Home Office has responded to the announcement with a statement affirming that police will be expected to enforce the law, as possession of cannabis remains a criminal offence.

You read more about the UK’s history of regulating medicinal cannabis and why legalising weed would boost the British economy on Dazed.