National lottery pic for Facebook

Postcode lottery, police arresting cannabis user.By Richard Shrubb

The postcode lottery of police attitudes to cannabis means that you’re four times more likely to be prosecuted for possession in Nottinghamshire than if the police find you with it in Surrey.

Careful with that weed in your pocket if you live in Nottinghamshire or Cleveland as you have more than a 51% chance of being prosecuted. At the other end of the scale you’ve almost a one in 7.5 chance of prosecution (13.4%) should Surrey Police find you in possession. This shows that our drugs laws are only as good as the police chief’s attitude in charge of where you live.

The Mirror newspaper investigation also showed that the Met Police in London only prosecuted 25% of offenders.

Downward trajectoryThe National Lottery pot logo.

Generally, the statistics show that police across the UK are tending to avoid going through the paperwork and effort of cannabis prosecution. The Coventry Telegraph reported on the 15th December last year, “Across the country, the overall reduction in the number of arrests for possession of cannabis was 42.6%.”

Meanwhile, the Hampshire Daily Echo reported in July, “In 2012, 740 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 64%, to 266.”

This is largely down to a lack of police resources to bother with drug users and small scale dealers though some police chiefs’ attitudes are changing. In September the Victoria Derbyshire programme on the BBC reported, PCC for Derbyshire and the national lead on drug use, Hardyal Dhindsa had actually visited cannabis clubs and took a rather sensible approach to weed. Of 39 PCCs surveyed by the programme it reported, “the PCCs from Derbyshire, North Wales, Durham, West Midlands, Gloucestershire and Avon and Somerset saying they did not believe criminalisation was necessary.”

Avon & Somerset and North Wales offer therapy

North Wales Live reported late last year, “Heroin users, low-level drug dealers and petty offenders could escape prosecution under a new scheme designed to reduce crime. The Checkpoint scheme, which will be piloted in one area of North Wales in the New Year before being rolled out force-wide, would see offenders commit to a four-month “contract”.  As part of the contract, they must agree not to commit any more crime and take part in “diversion” or treatment programmes such as therapy and rehab.”

Avon and Somerset Police have already done this. Speaking to Victoria Derbyshire, Avon and Somerset PCC Sue Mountstevens said: “Changing our perceptions and giving people the opportunity to take a different path is a big part of breaking the cycle of crime.”

This means that people aren’t going to be prosecuted for non-crimes like drug use. While we don’t want people needlessly put in therapy and being ‘reprogrammed’ from smoking weed, this is certainly a step forward and one that police forces like Dorset are dodging to keep their overall arrest rates up in some hope of appearing competent.

The therapy idea

Here’s a question for you: should someone be forced to go on a therapy course for drinking a bottle or two of wine a week? Unlike cannabis, alcohol has no medical use whatsoever except used topically on the skin to kill off bacteria. Two bottles of wine on an empty stomach could cause memory loss (as it did me last week) and in the wrong moment, cause them to be irrational and even violent (though I can assure you I wasn’t – I fell asleep in the bath). The best figures for the societal cost of alcohol every year were assessed in 2008 – 11 years ago – and that put the cost of alcohol harm in the UK at £55.1 billion a year across the NHS, police, prison, courts and social services. The positive economic impact of alcohol – how much it earns the economy – is somewhere around £46 billion (IAS figures), meaning that the taxpayer is paying just short of £9 billion a year for people to get pissed.

I am showing you these statistics to say what’s good enough for the goose is good enough for the gander. Given that only the most lost alcoholics are forced through therapy then shouldn’t our more enlightened police forces take the same attitude to cannabis?

As to the postcode lottery? If cannabis was legalised then we just wouldn’t be in this mess.

Richard Shrubb

Richard is a marijuana, water sports and electric vehicles writer based in Dorchester, Dorset. Living in Prince Charles model housing estate, Poundbury, he is an avowed republican, community and Labour Party activist. Visit his website at for more about what he does.

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