The police can no longer ignore the damage wreaked across the country by cannabis, a Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has warned.
Speaking at a National Police Chiefs’ Council conference, Alison Hernandez warned that while officers do tackle Class A drugs such as heroin, the “enforcement of drugs and drug-dealing in this country has been pathetically weak on Class B and Class C drugs for years”.
Between 2022 and 2023, the proportion of people charged for possession of the Class B drug cannabis dropped to a record low of 14.5 per cent.
Hernandez, the PCC for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said: “There’s been too much conversation nationally about the legalisation of cannabis, so a lot of people think it already is legal. And we want to remind our communities that it’s not and the damage that it causes”.
you need an enforcement approach
She warned: “The focus has not been on tackling the absolute stink of that in our streets. Across the country, it hasn’t been the focus of law enforcement for decades. There’s been a real move away from that and an obsession with the public health approach to drugs and actually sometimes you need an enforcement approach”.
The PCC called for the classification of cannabis to be reviewed, taking into account drug-driving incidents in the US state of California where the drug has been legalised.
Chief Constable Trevor Rodenhurst added that the drug causes “untold harm”, saying: “The drug itself is stronger than it’s ever been. And itself is linked to a lot of mental health challenges”.
Last month, the Republic of Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly on Drug Use called for wholesale liberalisation of laws on the possession of illegal drugs.
The Assembly avoided backing cannabis legalisation by just one vote but pushed for a “comprehensive health-led response to possession of drugs for personal use”.
The proposal will be submitted to the Oireachtas and Government by the end of the year. If implemented, it could “minimise, or potentially completely remove, the possibility of criminal conviction and prison sentences for simple possession”.