Cannabis possession warnings and fixed penalty notices have more than halved in a four-year period, according to troubling new figures.
The Times reported that figures from the Ministry of Justice found that the number of cannabis warnings fell from 72,172 in 2012 to 35,343 in 2016. In the same period, the total number of £80 fixed penalty notices for possession fell from 16,074 to 6,915.
Critics say the drastic fall is fresh evidence that police forces are continuing to ignore the issue of cannabis use.
Harry Shapiro, Director of DrugWise, called the figures “a reflection of a lack of enforcement activity”.
Kathy Gyngell, co-editor of The Conservative Woman, said: “We know some police forces and among some senior police officers there has essentially been antipathy towards criminalising cannabis.”
According to The Times, police guidelines do not recommend arrests to be made for those found in possession of cannabis for personal use on the first two occasions. A warning or fine is recommended instead.
Last November, the Government rejected fresh calls for the legalisation of the drug.
Responding to the release of a pro-cannabis report, a spokesman for Home Office said: “This government has no plans to legalise cannabis.”
“There is a substantial body of scientific and medical evidence to show that cannabis is a harmful drug which can damage people’s mental and physical health.
“The UK’s approach on drugs remains clear – we must prevent drug use in our communities and support people dependent on drugs through treatment and recovery.”
Ron Hogg, the Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner for Co Durham and Darlington, responded to the figures by maintaining that prosecuting those found in possession of cannabis was “not a good use of diminishing police resources”.