Cannabis smokers could face losing their passports as the government debates tougher penalties for recreational drug users, even though crime levels have fallen below pre-pandemic rates.
The latest Home Office figures show that cannabis possession-related offenses in England and Wales have fallen by 21% to 106,814 offenses recorded in the last 12 months leading up to March 2022. Before March 2020, 113,689 cannabis possession offenses were recorded by police in England and Wales, but following the introduction of lockdown restrictions this figure rose by 18% to 134,418 offences.
That’s likely because police were more likely to stop people during the pandemic, for example on suspicion of breaking lockdown rules, and that may have led to officers finding cannabis on more people than in a normal year. But data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales shows the pandemic has not disrupted drug trafficking.
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In fact, around 6% of adults between the ages of 18 and 59 have smoked cannabis during the pandemic – that’s about 1.8 million adults, reports WalesOnline. Most likely, police found cannabis on people in Westminster.
Last year, 2,571 crimes were registered in this area. That corresponds to about 98 crimes per 10,000 inhabitants. They were followed by Liverpool (74 per 10,000) and Barking and Dagenham (66 per 10,000).
It comes as cannabis laws are changing in certain parts of the world – with nations like Canada, Mexico, South Africa, Georgia and some American states legalizing recreational use. Germany is currently in the process of amending the law to allow for the controlled sale of cannabis to adults.
Meanwhile, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, launched the London Drugs Commission earlier this year to investigate the effectiveness of cannabis drug laws. Mr Khan first announced the review while he was in Los Angeles, on a visit to see first-hand the impact the city has had since cannabis was legalized in 2016.
A spokesman for the Lord Mayor said at the time: “We know we can never lock ourselves out of the problem, so we are continuing to work on measures to encourage and educate young people to simply send them through the criminal justice system – with the goal of getting them off drug use for good.” and distract from crime.”
Data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales show that more than a third of adults aged 18-59 (37%) have smoked cannabis at some point in their life – that’s about 12 million people. Proponents of legalization claim cannabis is less harmful than alcohol and would take the trade out of the hands of criminal gangs, freeing up police time and creating a new and lucrative revenue stream for the government.
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Opponents, however, point to the drug’s detrimental effects – particularly on mental health – and believe legalizing it would not break up drug gangs, but lead more people to become addicted to cannabis and potentially lead them to harder drugs.
But while some nations are moving towards legalization, the UK has recently taken steps in the opposite direction. In 2001, cannabis was downgraded from Class B to Class C, effectively decriminalizing the drug. A 2005 Home Office report estimated that this saved 199,000 police hours.
However, in 2007, against the advice of the Advisory Board on Drug Abuse, the drug was again declared a Class B substance. One of the first acts of Liz Truss’ government was to refuse formal approval to allow Bermuda to pass legislation legalizing and regulating cannabis. Bermuda has announced that it will push ahead with changing the law anyway.
Meanwhile, Home Office proposals released in July would see tougher penalties for recreational users of drugs like cannabis and cocaine. The three-tiered approach would result in first-time offenders being forced to pay to attend a drug education course, pay an increased fine, or potentially face criminal prosecution.
For a second offense, drug users would be warned, sent to another drug education course, and face mandatory, random drug testing for up to three months. Anyone caught a third time with cannabis or other recreational drugs must be prosecuted. As part of their punishment, if convicted, their passports and driver’s licenses could be confiscated.
About 16% of completed cannabis possession crime investigations committed in the year to March 2022 resulted in an indictment, up from 17% a year earlier and 20% before the pandemic. But the most common outcome for someone caught in possession of cannabis was extrajudicial punishment, such as a prison sentence. an informal cannabis warning or community order – 54% have been dealt with in this way in the past year and a further 11% have been dealt with a formal warning or fine.
Separate court figures show that 13,053 people were convicted of cannabis possession in 2021 – including 185 sentenced to immediate detention – up from 12,268 in 2020 but down from 14,043 in 2019.
A Home Office spokesman said: “We have no plans to decriminalize drug possession. Our approach to drugs remains clear – we must prevent drug use in our communities, support people through treatment and recovery, and combat the supply of illicit drugs. Decriminalizing drugs in the UK would neither eliminate the crime committed by the illicit trade nor address the harm and misery that drug addiction can cause to families and communities.
“We are committed to reversing the trend in drug use and recently opened a public consultation on a bold new approach to tackling drug possession.”