Pubdate: Thu, 09 Jun 2016
Source: Evening Chronicle (UK)
Copyright: 2016 Trinity Mirror Plc
Author: Laura Hill


Ron Hogg Said the War on Drugs Has Failed and the UK's Drug Policy Is 
'Unsustainable' As He Called on Colleagues to Back His Views

Cannabis should be made legal and used for medicinal purposes, 
Durham's Police and Crime Commissioner has said.

In a letter to the country's 40 PCCs, Ron Hogg said the "war on 
drugs" has failed and the UK's present approach is "unsustainable".

Mr Hogg highlighted the "genuine body of evidence" that cannabis 
brings pain and symptom relief to sufferers of various conditions.

And in an interview with us, Mr Hogg said he feels it's time to 
review the legalisation of the Class B drug.

He said: "I want the benefit of drugs to be explored. Look at 
morphine, it comes from poppy seeds, the same as heroin.

"All sorts of conditions can be eased by cannabis and I really 
support the idea of legalising the drug for medical use."

He added: "I have spoken to so many people who say the benefits are 
just superb."

Mr Hogg hit the headlines last year when he announced that Durham 
Police would no longer actively pursue cannabis smokers and 
small-scale growers in an effort to cut costs and keep users out of 
the criminal justice system.

Reiterating this approach, he said: "When it comes to recreational 
use my outlook is simple: if someone is smoking a spliff at home, not 
causing any bother to anyone, we are not going after them. If it is 
causing trouble then we will.

"We will continue to pursue drug dealers and the organised crime 
elements but people who are just having fun, we're not bothered 
about, we'd rather spend out time going after burglars or child abusers."

Urging other PCCs to follow suit, Mr Hogg argued that legal drugs, 
including alcohol, cause more harm than some illegal drugs.

"Alcohol causes significant harm to individuals and to communities, 
and alcohol is the drug which causes most problems for the police 
service," he said.

"Our approach to drug taking should be increasingly to move away from 
criminal justice to health based solutions in order to reduce drug harm."

The former cop said more than 90 countries - including the 
Netherlands, Canada, Uruguay, Spain, Australia and some US States 
which have long subscribed to a heavy enforcement and punishment of 
drug users - have now taken a harm reduction approach.

He believes that the UK should follow suit and look to the Department 
of Health rather than the Home Office for drug and alcohol strategies.

Asking fellow politicians to rally around his approach, Mr Hogg said: 
"Having attended the scenes of too many drug overdoses during my 
career, I am passionate about delivering my goal of informed policies 
which will reduce harm within our communities, and reduce harm to individuals."

In April, Durham's Chief Constable Mike Barton also shared the view 
that cannabis should be legalised as he took up a role at the 
National Police Chiefs' Council.

Mr Barton - who has campaigned to introduce 'consumption rooms' where 
addicts can inject drugs safely - was elected to lead 'crime 
operations' by his peers, replacing Merseyside chief Sir Jon Murphy.

Last year, Policing Minister Mike Penning told the House of Commons 
that Mr Barton was wrong to try and legalise class A drugs.

But Mr Barton stood firm on his views, saying: "I respect all views 
on drugs, but I was disappointed there were so few MPs in the Commons 
when this important issue was debated for the first time in decades.

"As to whether the current policy is working, well I'm not sure.

"We are passionate about making the UK safe and we will continue to 
target dealers, locking them up and securing lengthy prison terms; 
but we only strangle the supply of drugs for a matter of hours after 
months of undercover work."
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