Cannabis users are being allowed to watch an educational video instead of getting a criminal record because police are dealing with offences in an “informal” way, it has been revealed.
Forces around the country are increasingly using “community resolutions” to deal with people caught with the Class B drug, despite them being designed for “low level offences”.
Think-tank Civitas warned that failing to send a strong message means police are “effectively decriminalising cannabis”.
Analysis by The Daily Telegraph indicates the national proportion of offenders who were given community resolutions for cannabis possession dramactically rose in recent years.
In 2015-16, it stood at 6.6 per cent but increased to 27.8 per cent in the first quarter of 2019-20.
For Hampshire, community resolutions for cannabis offences jumped from 7.5 per cent to 70.2 per cent over the same period.
In the London area the figure rose from 3.8 per cent to 50.7 per cent.
Watch a video
Community Resolutions are officially described as an “alternative way of dealing with less serious crimes”.
They “can be used for offences such as low level public order, criminal damage, theft, and minor assaults”.
According to the Metropolitan Police, when used for cannabis they require offenders reading information on “how cannabis can have a negative impact on your future” – or watching the message on video.
David Green, who leads Civitas, said: “There might be a justification for a community resolution on a first offence if it is associated with a pledge to take part in treatment.
“But I suspect this is just a way of getting it off police books and not doing much about it.
“If it doesn’t send a strong message of disapproval, then you are effectively decriminalising cannabis and making it likely to be used again.”
The Police Federation, which represents officers on the ground, claim the policy of making drugs illegal ‘is failing’.
It said it was not calling for decriminalisation or legalisation, but wanted further debate on the issue.
The Government said the resolutions “must be used proportionately and never to let adult offenders off the hook”. It added that the police must “enforce the law”.
Cannabis is strongly linked with poor mental health. Two experienced psychiatrists recently said that the evidence is “now incontrovertible that heavy cannabis use increases the risk of psychosis”.