While cops in the United States persist in their prohibitionary efforts—sometimes paralyzing and brutally murdering the average citizen over marijuana—police forces throughout northeast England have pulled out of the war on weed, at least for the most part. According to reports, cops are now only busting street hooligans engaged in large-scale black market operations—small timers are free to grow.
In a move that some government officials consider insubordinate decriminalization, County Durham crime commissioner Ron Hogg recently approved a series of guidelines dictating that police resources no longer be used to crack down on low-level home pot cultivators. Instead, their authority will be used solely as a weapon to fight against the scourge of organized crime, dope dealers and street gangs.
“We are not prioritizing people who have a small number of cannabis plants for their own use” Hogg told the Telegraph. “In low-level cases we say it is better to work with them and put them in a position where they can recover.
“In these cases,” he continued, “the most likely way of dealing with them would be with a caution and by taking the plants away and disposing of them. It is unlikely that a case like that would be brought before a court.”
This rubber-fisted approach to dealing with petty pot crimes, according to Hogg, will not only save police time and money but, perhaps, even inspire a much needed debate over how the entire nation handles drug offenders.
Although marijuana cultivation is still considered a serious offense in the eyes of Crown Prosecution Services—an offense with a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison—Hogg said his troops are no longer going after “users and small-time growers” unless there is a complaint or a “blatant” disregard for the law. Therefore, as long as cannabis connoisseurs maintain grows of a reasonable size, there should never be any reason for a vicious shakedown.
The latest Crime Survey for England and Wales indicates that Hogg’s blind-eye approach to personal pot plants could remove a significant amount of heat off British cannabis culture. Statistics show that between 2012 and 2014, pot seizures increased by 45 percent. Interestingly, in around 90 percent of those cases, less than 50 plants were confiscated—evidence that the majority of these arrests have been for the average user, not large black market operations.
Yet, officials with the National Drug Prevention Alliance argue that the Durham Constabulary has gone rogue, suggesting that the publicity surrounding his newfound policy will encourage more people to grow weed. However, Hogg contends that his position is simply about “keeping people out of the criminal justice system and reducing costs.”
“Cannabis use is still illegal and smoking it is still a crime, but if you are caught, you will get this opportunity to stop re-offending,” Hogg told the Northern Echo.
Commissioner Hogg explained that although he supports decriminalization and the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, he remains concerned about the mental health implications associated with the herb.
“Legal or illegal makes no difference—it can be detrimental to health just like alcohol,” he said.
For now, resident stoners will have to settle for this concept of quasi-decriminalization because the U.K. government has no plans to legalize the leaf anytime in the near future. Commissioner Hogg said that as long as there is evidence that weed is damaging to the mental and physical condition, parliament will not tender its support.