CANNABIS use is being 'unofficially legalised' according to campaigners after new figures show up to nine out of ten people caught with the drug are never charged.
In some areas just 12 per cent of people caught with the drug never go before a court and escape with punishments such as a warning or a caution.
Cannabis is being 'unofficially legalised', it has been claimedCredit: Alamy
Across England, an average of just 22 per cent of possession offences led to a criminal charge last year, down from 27 per cent in 2017.
In Surrey, however, that figure falls to just 12 per cent.
In Leicestershire 13 per cent and in Devon and Cornwall 14 per cent of cases led to a charge, the Daily Mail reports
David Green, director of the think-tank Civitas, said: ‘These figures provide even stronger evidence that the police have unofficially legalised cannabis in many parts of the country.
“Many police leaders want to legalise cannabis. Some are openly in favour of changing the law, while others turn a blind eye.
‘The tragedy is that they are doing so at a time when doctors are increasingly worried about the impact on the mental health of cannabis users, and especially our young people.
“Modern forms of cannabis, such as skunk, are at least twice as potent as varieties that were available in the 1970s.’
Earlier this year, a report from Oxford University and published in JAMA Psychiatry, found that cannabis use is to blame for 60,000 people suffering depression in the UK.
Mary Brett, of charity Cannabis Skunk Sense, added: “There’s a law there and it’s the police’s job to enforce it.
„It’s counter-productive and kids know they will be let off with a caution or a warning.’
Assistant Chief Constable Jason Harwin, the lead for drugs at the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said the law provides a “range of options for those in possession of the cannabis”.
What is the law on cannabis in the UK and where is it legal?
Cannabis remains illegal to possess, grow, distribute, sell or grow in the UK.
Currently anyone found possessing cannabis can be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison, an unlimited fine or both punishments under UK legislation.
Supplying or producing the class B drug can land people in prison for a maximum of 14 years an unlimited fine, or both.
Police can issue a warning or on-the-spot fine if you’re caught with a small amount – generally less than one ounce – if it is deemed for personal use.
On November 1, 2018, medical cannabis became available to patients in the UK on NHS prescription.
In the run up to the 2017 General Election, the Liberal Democrats announced plans to legalise the drug for sale on the high street.
The policy made them one of the first political parties to fight an election on the ticket of relaxing drug laws.
Think tank the Adam Smith Institute has said £750million to £1bn could be generated in taxes if the drug was regulated like tobacco or alcohol.
Criminal justice savings would also add up, with 1,363 offenders currently in prison for cannabis-related crimes at a cost to the taxpayer of £50million a year.
In some countries – including Norway, the Netherlands and Portugal – it is legal to consume small amounts of marijuana.
In others police do not arrest people for possession, although dealers still face harsh penalties.
Portugal became the first country in the world to decriminalise the use of all drugs in 2001.
How they are dealt with has to be “proportionate to the individual circumstances”.
“Charging is one outcome and police officers can use professional judgment to make use of others,” he said.
The Home Office said: ‘Possession of cannabis is a criminal offence and cultivation an even more serious offence.
“How police choose to pursue investigations is an operational decision for chief constables, but we are clear that we expect them to enforce the law.”
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The Oxford University study was the first to look at marijuana use and depression and it analysed 11 previous studies involving 23,317 participants.
Scientists think the teenage brain is more vulnerable to cannabis’ active ingredient – THC.
They also warned the drug is up to ten times stronger than a generation ago, meaning any potential harm may be far greater.
Consumption of the drug has been linked to depressionCredit: Getty – Contributor
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