British police permitted to use discretion for small amounts of marijuana possession

Published May 14, 2019 09:27 a.m. ET
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Though many areas of the world now enjoy the perks of marijuana legalization, not everyone is so fortunate. In the United Kingdom, anyone who is caught with cannabis can according to customary law, be sentenced to up to five years in prison with possible fines, but this latest announcement has weed enthusiasts celebrating the small victory. This law has been in place for almost two decades, but recent push back from local police forces are believed to have inspired this change for the better. Many of which, have been declining to document or report young offenders for years, for fear of ruining their lives over such a trivial mistake.

The spokesperson for the Police Chief Council Jason Harwin made the announcement public while touching on some of the many reasons that local police forces have long hoped for this sort of permission. Stating, “There is strong evidence to suggest that recommending minor offenders for early treatment instead of pursuing convictions can prevent re-offending and the result and outcome for both the user and the criminal justice system.”

Constables will now be granted the opportunity to provide leniency to individuals who are found to be in possession of small amounts of cannabis, while also staying vigilant and against larger scale smugglers, growers, and dealers. The change is welcomed by both the local police departments, who no longer believe the marijuana use propaganda, or are afraid of the public response to these arrests, as well as weed consumers. The most recent public mocking came from a Facebook post where the West Yorkshire Police posted an alarmingly small amount of cannabis that had just been confiscated by a lone man that afternoon. The weed chunk inside of the picture wasn’t even half of the size of the finger that is clearly beside it.

This brought on hordes of angry commentators with as many as 700 negative responses from citizens who felt that the police were wasting their time. The top voted comment read, “Wow that’s put a dent in the war on drugs lol.” Which angered the department who tried their best to regain some composure. Warning tempted commentators that respect for the law would be upheld on the page, and any who chose to go against this request would be banned. It only took a week before comments were closed, and there has not been a single “tiny” drug bust since then. This all seemed to solidify that a different tactic was needed to police in a society that is slowly beginning to accept marijuana use as a tool rather than a hard drug.

Since the introduction of these newest powers granted to act slightly outside the law for the greater good, there hasn’t been any significant decrease in arrests, with the average only falling by around 3% so far. Which implies that the police in the UK have likely been implementing a selective action technique for much longer than many had thought. Though the region is still a long way from full marijuana legalization, the general sense is that society is evolving past the many years of exposure to weed propaganda and are slowly accepting cannabis for both recreational and medicinal purposes.

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