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British Chief Constable Supports Cannabis Decriminalization

John Campbell from the Thames Valley Police is supporting cannabis decriminalization as a sign that there’s more marijuana reform in the UK. In testimony delivered to the Home Affairs select committee, citing evidence that he says would reduce violent crime, Campbell said that it is the “lucrative” illegalization of weed that promotes criminal behavior associated with the plant.

He has been joined in his support for cannabis reform by the Assistant Chief Constable of South Wales who has suggested that the entire issue of ending Prohibition should be addressed, albeit approached with “a great deal of caution.”

That said, such comments are still, sadly, an anomaly from Britain’s senior police leaders. In fact, most PCCs don’t support normalization of forward motion because they fear it could lead to even more violence. British law already punishes cannabis possession, with a maximum five-year sentence in prison or an unlimited fine.

The news is significant, especially given Sadiq Khan’s intention to criminalize small amounts of cannabis. The Metropolitan Police Service (or Met) is the U.K.’s largest police force. Thames Valley Police ranks fifth among 43. The 2,200-square-miles of the police force are spread across three counties, which is home to 2.34million people. Thames Valley Police was also subject to criticisms for being less diverse than its population. It has been accused of targeting Black people, submitting them to stop and searches and detaining under the Mental Health Act. They are often connected to cannabis possession.

Slippery Slope of Decriminalization

While the vast majority of British authorities do not agree with cannabis legalization’s final steps, they clearly are losing this battle. In November 2018, the U.K. legalized medical cannabis use for those who have been prescribed it by their doctor. However, obtaining a prescription is still exceedingly difficult, and many patients are forced, just as they are in places like Germany, to obtain their cannabis via the black market—or grow their own. The legit CBD market is expanding at an incredible rate.

For all of these reasons, it is imminently clear that the U.K. is on the same “slippery slope” towards full legalization as everywhere else, particularly as medical efficacy of the plant can no longer be refuted. Patients who can get to sympathetic doctors can now obtain a “cannabis patient card.” And beyond this, those who head up patient collectives are increasingly finding that if busted, judges are much more lenient.

All of this points to a changing legal environment for cannabis use—of which the police are well aware. The number of cannabis farms that were busted has dropped significantly, from an all-time high of 758.943 in 2009 to 2010. There were 500,448 cannabis farms last year. There are administrative costs for the officers who arrested the suspects, as well as court time.

In the U.K., like elsewhere, the economics of Prohibition, particularly given the changing environment and views towards cannabis increasingly don’t add up. Despite this, the public is increasingly supportive of legalization. The most recent national poll conducted in January of this year showed that a slight majority of Britons opposed recreational reform—but just like everywhere else, times they are a’changin.

Police are everywhere the most conservative group in mainstream society regarding legalization and decriminalization. However even the most staid members of law enforcement know that cannabis as medicine is increasingly becoming accepted—and that a family member might end up being a cannabis patient if not a “criminal” for the same. Beyond that, non-violent possession of cannabis is still a serious offense. Unfortunately, this has not changed.