Cannabis possession arrests fall by almost 50% since 2010

In the same five year period cautions for possession fell 48 per cent and the number of people charged fell by 33 per cent

Samuel Osborne
Monday 04 April 2016 15:11
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Crime survey data suggests cannabis use remained roughly the same from 2010-15
Crime survey data suggests cannabis use remained roughly the same from 2010-15

A 46 per cent fall in the number of arrests for cannabis possession in England and Wales shows the Government must start "developing rational, evidence based policies as alternatives to criminalising cannabis consumers," advocates of cannabis legalisation say.

Data released after a freedom of information request by the BBC shows arrests fell between 2010 and 2015 from 35,367 to 19,115.

In the same five year period, cautions for possession fell 48 per cent and the number of people charged fell by 33 per cent.

The number of arrests for possession with intent to supply remained roughly the same.

Lee Harris, London Mayoral candidate for the Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol (CISTA) party told The Independent: "The falling numbers of arrests for offences related to cannabis is part of a bigger trend around the world as governments at national and regional levels are developing rational, evidence based policies as alternatives to criminalising cannabis consumers.

"Not only does this help to protect consumers, it puts valuable tax receipts back into supporting public services. Here in the UK and in London decriminalisation is occurring by stealth.

"This still leaves the black market and organised crime as the sole provider. This is unacceptable given the potential health risks and the impact on communities. Surely now we must accept the need to regulate and tax cannabis consumption in the public interest."

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Despite the fall in arrests and cautions, crime survey data suggests cannabis use remained roughly the same from 2010-15.

"In direct contrast to the Government's tough on drugs rhetoric, it's clear that levels of use have little or nothing to do with policing tactics, so why do we continue to waste police time and still criminalise tens of thousands of young people?" Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst for drug reform group Transform, said.

"It's time to deal with cannabis as a public health issue to be responsibly managed, not a crime to be punished."

Other campaigners praised the police for shifting their focus from cannabis possession to other crimes.

"This is excellent news as it means that police are concentrating on real crimes that cause harm to people," Peter Reynolds, the president of CLEAR, the UK's largest cannabis policy group, told The Independent.

"Unlike other nations which are introducing evidence-based reform, the UK is paralysed about its cannabis policy because it's based not on reducing harm but on appeasing readers of tabloid newspapers.

"UK drugs policy actually causes far more harm than cannabis does. Thank heavens the police are taking an intelligent approach, something that our government seems incapable of."

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