Cannabis convictions in Derbyshire drop as legalisation call grows louder
The number of people convicted for cannabis possession by Derbyshire Police has significantly reduced since 2012, as calls for legalisation grow louder.
In 2012, 246 people were found guilty of cannabis possession in court, according to figures from the Ministry of Justice.
However, by 2017 this number had dropped by 47%, to 131.
Niamh Eastwood, executive director of drug legislation charity Release, said this was due a decline in stop and search across England and Wales.
“The fall in the number of prosecutions for drug possession offences, and in particular cannabis possession, has largely been a result of the significant decrease in the use of stop and search.”
Of those successfully prosecuted by Derbyshire Police, 92 were given a fine or discharge, while two received prison sentences.
Cannabis possession charges made up 21% of the total drugs possession offences Derbyshire Police achieved in court. Cannabis is the most commonly used drug in the UK.
“This trend is welcomed as low-level possession offences should not be a priority for police,” Ms Eastwood continued.
“That being said over 50% of all stop and searches still focus on this type of activity, with huge disparities in how drugs are policed across the country.
“Some police forces such as Durham, and Avon and Somerset are taking a more pragmatic approach and diverting people away from the criminal justice system for possession offences.”
Recently Mike Barton, Durham Police Chief Constable, called for cannabis to be legalised.
He said his police force would not apply for search warrants for people with one or two cannabis plants, and not prosecute those caught with cannabis for personal use.
“The status quo is not tenable. It’s getting worse,” Chief Constable Barton explained.
“Drugs are getting cheaper, stronger, more readily available and more dangerous. I have come reluctantly over the years to the conclusion that we need to regulate the market.
“If you can regulate the market you can make sure it’s old-fashioned cannabis not skunk or spice.”
At the moment the Association of Chief Police Officers only recommends arresting someone for having cannabis for personal use, after they have been given a warning and separately an £80 penalty notice.
In 2017 Bedfordshire Police prosecuted almost four times as many people as Durham Police for cannabis possession, despite both forces covering similar sized populations.
The legalisation argument hit headlines after border officials confiscated cannabis oil from a severely epileptic boy in Heathrow.
The Home Office eventually granted a 20 day licence for the medicine, which his mother says greatly reduces his seizures.
Ms Eastwood commented that legalisation in other countries had reduced drug deaths.
She added: “The UK Government should follow suit and implement a model of decriminalisation for drug possession, this would reduce the harms faced by people who use drugs, save the state money and ensure consistency in the way this issue is policed.”