Drugs

More Proof That British Police No Longer Give a Shit About Weed

While the government doesn't want to budge on drug policy, more police forces around the UK are starting to use a bit of common sense.
April 5, 2016, 12:00am

(Photo via NORML)

Largely unsurprising news now, as it turns out the police have seemingly stopped giving a shit about your weed. Arrests for possession of cannabis in England and Wales have dropped by 46 percent since 2010, according to figures obtained by BBC Breakfast under the Freedom of Information Act.

Slashed budgets across the board have effectively forced British police to prioritise things that really matter, and clearly busting people for weed doesn't rank too highly on the to-do list compared to, say, solving murders or making sure right-wing protesters don't batter anyone on their "patriot marches".

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As well as that decrease in arrests, cautions dropped by 48 percent and charges fell by 33 percent. However, it doesn't look like that sharp decrease in policing and prosecuting has anything to do with a drop in usage: Crime Survey data suggests that, from 2010 to 2015, cannabis use remained roughly the same.

This data follows a load of other stories that point to the police gently taking drug policy into their own hands – presumably because they have a much better idea of how to handle drugs than politicians, the people whose job it is to decide how to handle drugs. The people who are terrified to make any kind of meaningful change – the thing all politicians ostensibly get into politics for – because they're scared it will shave a few votes off their winning margin.

Recall, for instance, the time the Home Office commissioned a report on the war on drugs, and then ignored that report when it turned out that the war on drugs wasn't working. Or when 220,000 people signed a petition calling on MPs to discuss the legalisation of cannabis, making it the third most popular parliamentary petition ever, and only 14 of a possible 650 MPs bothered to turn up.

If you need more examples of the government being incompetent when it comes to drugs, they're not hard to find. So, in the face of all that, you can see why numerous police bosses are easing their focus on weed, with chiefs in Durham, Derbyshire, Surrey and Dorset telling officers not to bother going after cannabis smokers or small-time growers.

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When asked in July of 2015 if no longer targeting or investigating cannabis users and personal-use growers was sending the message that smoking or growing weed was an acceptable thing to do, Durham Chief Constable Mike Barton said he was "not condoning drug use", but added that relaxing attitudes had "freed up [his] staff to deal with things that are more important".

The legalisation debate rolls on, as one by one American states and entire countries decide that weed really isn't that bad after all – that it should be regulated rather than banned. It's difficult to predict how long it will take British lawmakers to catch up, but it's becoming increasingly clear that police have far more sense than the people who decide the laws they're supposed to enforce.

More on VICE:

How Legalising Weed Would Save Britain Billions

Inside the Secret World of a British Undercover Drugs Cop

Activists Are Planting Weed in Public All Over the UK