Pubdate: Wed, 22 Jul 2015
Source: Daily Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: 2015 Telegraph Media Group Limited
Author: Martin Evans


CANNABIS users in County Durham who grow the drug for their own 
consumption will no longer be targeted by the police after the force 
declared the illegal activity was not a priority.

In a move, which will be seen as a further step towards 
decriminalisation, Durham Constabulary declared it would only go 
after people using the drug if there was a complaint or if they were 
being "blatant".

While the force insisted it would continue to tackle commercial 
cannabis farms and other areas of criminality associated with the 
production of the drug, those who grow and use at home will not be 
actively targeted and pursued.

Details of the policy were outlined by Ron Hogg, a former police 
officer and now the UKP70,000-a-year Police and Crime Commissioner, 
who said he hoped by setting out the position, it would spark a 
national debate around drug laws.

Mr Hogg said: "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.

"In these cases 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 fore a court.

"Of course it is up to the Government to change the law but I am 
trying to open up a debate about drugs and drugs policy."

Both Mr Hogg and his Chief Constable, Mick Barton, are outspoken 
advocates of the decriminalisation of all narcotics, but the 
softening of the position around cannabis has alarmed some anti-drugs 

Mr Hogg said anyone caught with the Class B drug, would be given the 
opportunity to avoid prosecution by signing up to a crime reduction initiative.

However anti-drug campaigners said it was not up to an individual 
force to "lead the debate around the law" and insisted the policy 
sent the wrong message to users.

David Raynes of the National Drug Prevention Alliance, said: "Durham 
Constabulary are out on their own with this and are trying to lead 
the law on this issue.

"If the Chief Constable and Police Crime Commissioner want to indulge 
in that policy then it is not necessary to make it public, because 
clearly making this sort of announcement will serve to encourage 
anyone who so minded."

Setting out the force's position on drugs, Mr Hogg said: "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." He added: "Those 
who grow or deal in drugs, no matter on what scale, are responsible 
for causing massive harm to our communities, and will be tackled." 
Last year Mr Barton argued that investigating drug addicts was a 
"waste of police time".

He has called for the decriminalisation of hard drugs such as heroin 
and cocaine, arguing that if they were supplied on the NHS, addicts 
would not need to go out and commit crime in order to buy illegal narcotics.
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