Cannabis users in Durham, northern England, will be free to grow it for their own consumption after the local police force said they will no longer actively target people who take the drug.
The Times reports that Ron Hogg, police and crime commissioner for Durham Police, said his force would use its resources pursuing organised gangs who grow the drug, rather than casual users. Officers will only go after cannabis users if they “blatant” about it, he added.
Production and supply of cannabis is illegal in the UK and can carry a prison sentence of up to 14 years, although sentencing is usually lenient in practice.
Hogg said he wanted to promote a “national debate” on drug use: “We are not prioritising people who have a small number of cannabis plants for their own use. In low-level cases we say it is better to work with them and put them in a position where they can recover.
“The most likely way of dealing with them would be with a caution and by taking the plants away and disposing of them. It is unlikely that a case like that would be brought before a court.
“By and large we are saying it is not the top of our list to go out and try to pick up people smoking joints on street corners but if it’s blatant or we get complaints, officers will act.
“It’s about keeping people out of the criminal justice system and reducing costs, it’s about being more productive with the way we approach things.”
However, Barry Copping, police and crime commissioner for neighbouring Cleveland, said his force would continue to enforce drug laws.
“Whilst much has been said about the consequences and benefits of legalising drugs I think there should be a Royal Commission to look deeper into the issue and this would be the only comprehensive way of looking into it.
“In the meantime, I would expect the police to operate within the law as it exists.
“As well as tackling drug dealing we also need to give support to victims of crime and people who are caught up in drug abuse to help rehabilitate them.
“Communities tell us about the devastating effects of drug misuse and drug dealing and we will continue to work within the law as it stands to bring perpetrators to justice.”