20% of police 'back change in drug law'

First Edition

One in five uniformed police officers are in favour of the decriminalisation of cannabis and are likely to caution or ignore anyone they find in possession of small amounts of the drug, writes Terry Kirby.

The research among Sussex police was conducted by Andrew Fraser and Michael George, health authority workers in Brighton, who say that officers operate 'unwritten rules' when dealing with small amounts of cannabis. The survey shows that officers who favoured lenient attitudes towards cannabis consumption were four times more likely to have cannabis-using friends. 'The liberal group . . . may have developed their more permissive attitude as a result of their experience of 'normal social' cannabis smokers and their failure to detect tangible harm resulting from cannabis use,' a report on the survey in the current issue of Policing magazine says.

Officers who said they would arrest known cannabis possessors were more likely not to have cannabis-using friends and opposed the idea of decriminalisation.

Twenty per cent of the 188 police officers surveyed said they approved or strongly approved of more liberal laws - a much higher figure than among the population at large, where the percentage in favour varies between eight and twelve per cent.