Right now, there’s a bit of a debate raging across British politics over what sort of approach would be the best one to tackle cannabis – but it seems as if one place in the UK has decided to step back and tolerate it.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has indicated that she wants to make it a Class A drug, putting weed on par with the likes of heroin and cocaine.
Right now, if you’re caught in possession of a Class B drug like weed, you can get hit with a sentence of up to five years behind bars, while having Class A drugs can get you locked up for seven years.
The idea goes that cracking down on cannabis will scare people away from the drug for fear of long prison sentences.
It’s just an idea rather than a clear direction or policy statement at the moment, but it has the backing from some senior police commissioners who see cannabis as a ‘gateway drug’ to harder stuff.
However, others in law enforcement reckon this would be a really bad idea, with a former undercover cop saying getting tougher on weed would be ‘utterly catastrophic’.
There are also plenty of people who reckon it’s time the UK moved towards changing the laws and getting cannabis decriminalised.
London mayor Sadiq Khan is looking into decriminalising Class B drugs like cannabis, but looking into the matter doesn’t mean a change is about to come.
Decriminalisation might not be taking off across the UK just yet, but there is one place in the UK where the police take a different tack when it comes to weed and you’ll probably never guess where it is.
That’s alright, we’re going to tell you anyway – it’s Durham.
It all started back in 2015 when then-Durham police crime commissioner Ron Hogg decided the police should take a new approach and no longer actively pursue weed smokers or small scale growers.
He wanted officers to focus their efforts on more serious crimes, noting that the police would be better off going after dealers than users.
To be really, really clear, that’s not to say you can move to Durham and start your own cannabis farm or stroll around the city centre smoking a joint without getting into trouble.
Cannabis is still as illegal in Durham as it is in the rest of the UK and blatantly breaking the law in front of the police is never a good idea.
People still do get arrested for weed related offences, as Chronicle Live reported that police busted someone for growing 200 cannabis plants back in July.
However, The Times visited Durham in 2018 to see how the changes were going and found some very chilled out people saying the ‘police aren’t bothered at all’, preferring to have a quiet word with weed smokers rather than reaching for the handcuffs right away.
That’s not to say they were letting people get away with everything, as an attempt to hold a 700 strong weed event did get closed down.
A spokesperson from Durham Constabulary was keep to stress they still punish people for cannabis related offences but their focus is on the gangs who supply the drugs rather than the users who buy them.
They said: “Cannabis is an illegal drug and anyone caught smoking it in public in County Durham and Darlington can expect to face arrest by our officers.
“However, our attention is focussed less on low level users and more on disrupting the activities of those Organised Criminal Gangs which profit from the supply of drugs and those dealers who harm our communities.”