- Afron Jones, PCC for North Wales, has called for the regulation of cannabis to stop rise in criminal gangs
- The police chief also called for people to start growing cannabis at home
- “They’re not harming anybody else and there is no reason why they should be punished through the criminal justice system.”
Arfon Jones, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for North Wales, has called for the British Government to regulate cannabis to help prevent the rise in criminal gangs, even calling for people to be allowed to grow the drug at home for personal use.
Mr Jones, who is well known within the cannabis community as a pragmatic leader who bases policy off scientific evidence, believes that a new licensing system, similar to one seen in Canada and Uruguay, should be introduced so cannabis can be sold over the counter.
The PCC for North Wales has long opposed prohibition, favouring reforms to UK drug laws, as he believes they have the opposite effect to their intention.
Discussing his proposal to regulate cannabis to the Denbighshire Free Press, Mr Jones explained why he believes regulation is a better policy for reducing crime and drug users than a blanket ban of drugs:
“It is a nonsense to criminalise people who take cannabis for recreational use and cause no harm to anybody else.
“The best way to reduce the role of organised crime in the supply of drugs is to put it in commercial hands and to price it appropriately so people don’t need to go to the illegal market.
“Commercial organisations have taken over the medicinal cannabis market and are selling prescriptions at a vast cost even though it is cheap to grow. That’s just exploitation in my book.
“My view is that people should be allowed to grow a limited number of cannabis plants for their own use.
“Let’s face it there are probably hundreds of thousands of people in this country who grow cannabis in their own homes now.
“They’re not harming anybody else and there is no reason why they should be punished through the criminal justice system.
“It would be sensible to follow the example of Spanish cannabis clubs where people are allowed to grow seven or eight cannabis plants in the club.
“If you were starting from scratch I think cannabis would be more lightly regulated than alcohol is now because I think everybody agrees that alcohol is far more harmful to individuals than cannabis is.
“Just like alcohol, you should have age restrictions on the purchase and consumption of cannabis is a regulated market.
“That age limit could be 18 or 21. If you’re in the USA you can’t consume alcohol until you’re 21 but I am not hung up on the issue of age. I would respect the advice of experts on this matter.
“What I am clear about is that chasing and prosecuting recreational users of cannabis should not be a police priority when they are causing absolutely no harm to anybody else.”
– Arfon Jones, PCC for North Wales
“What I am clear about is that chasing and prosecuting recreational users of cannabis should not be a police priority when they are causing absolutely no harm to anybody else.
“Rather than overload an already creaking criminal justice system, we need a more enlightened and more effective approach.
“In the autumn I will be launching a new scheme called Checkpoint in North Wales – after it was developed by Cambridge University and successfully trialled in Durham – which is designed to divert low level offenders away from criminality.
“We need to recognise that 90 per cent of drug consumption including cannabis is recreational use and non-problematic.
“In those cases, people should be given some educational information and that would be the end of the matter.
“Meanwhile, the legal position in relation to medicinal cannabis has been well and truly fudged as a matter of political expediency to avoid a PR disaster caused by the heart-rending cases of several children like the chronically ill Billy Caldwell who needs cannabis oil to ward off life-threatening fits.
“It is also unjust and cruel that people living with conditions like multiple sclerosis who use cannabis are putting themselves at risk of being prosecuted.
“At a time when North Wales Police has had to contend with £30 million in austerity cuts since 2010, we need to be focusing instead on the supply of illegal substances because of the violence associated with it, the problems it causes and the exploitation of young people and vulnerable people.
“It is unfair that a conviction for minor cannabis possession can blight a person’s future career.
“That’s what happens when people go through the criminal justice system. so we need to look at a different way and we are doing that here in North Wales.
“I recently visited Montevideo which is one of the most prosperous capital cities in Latin America, so clearly when they regulated cannabis back in 2014 the sky didn’t fall in. It’s a lesson we should learn here.”
Britain needs more leaders like Arfon Jones. His vision for basing policy off scientific evidence is a growing one, shared by other leading PCCs in the UK.
Ron Hogg, PCC for Durham, was one of the first Commissioners to call for a more relaxed approach to policing cannabis, telling his officers in 2015 to only pursue arresting large commercial grows run by criminal gangs, rather than targeting vulnerable medicinal users.
Pursuing a policy which criminalises cannabis users is clearly not working. If the intention of the policy was to reduce the number of users, it has failed: cannabis is the most popular drug in the UK, with 7.2% of adults aged 16 to 59 having used it in the last year (around 2.4 million people).
This is the highest rise in use in 9 years. Cannabis was reclassified as a class B drug in 2008 (11 years ago).
For those truly opposed to a rise in the use of cannabis, a more sensible, compassionate approach, like the one Arfon is advocating, is clearly needed. Banning a substance clearly does not reduce use: it increases it.