Nearly 100,000 people have signed an official petition calling for the British government to legalise the production, sale and use of cannabis.
The petition, which is the second most popular on UK Parliament website, claims that legalising the drug could result in £900m in tax revenue, create 10,000 new jobs and save £400m in law enforcement.
If a petition on the Parliament website reaches 10,000 signatures it receives an official government response, and if reaches 100,000 it will be “considered for debate” by MPs.
The petition has seen the number of signatories shoot up in recent days thanks to a coordinated campaign on social media. It crossed the 10,000 threshold just three days ago and the number of people who have signed has risen nearly tenfold since then.
The government has yet to issue a response.
Earlier this week, the police and crime commissioner for Durham Police, Ron Hogg, said his force would no longer actively target cannabis users who grow and consume the drug privately. Instead, they would focus on organised gangs who grow and sell the drug.
“We are not prioritising people who have a small number of cannabis plants for their own use,” he said. “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.”
The campaign to legalise, or at least decriminalise, cannabis in the UK has been gaining momentum for some years. In 2004, Tony Blair’s Labour government downgraded it to a “Class C” drug, effectively removing the threat of arrest for possession of the drug.
However, Gordon Brown’s government then reclassified it back to the more severe “Grade B” in 2009.