By Clara Gaspar
Chief Constable of Durham police, Mike Barton, has called for the legalisation of cannabis in the UK, stating that the current ban on the drug is “not working.”
These comments follow calls from former Conservative party leader William Hague to legalise cannabis, stating that the war on the drug has failed.
Mr Barton said that his experience trying to implement the ban on cannabis suggested that it was detrimental to public safety and should be lifted.
He said “When I joined the police in Blackpool 38 years ago there was one drug squad detective; now everybody is on it.
“I’ve seen a remarkable deterioration in drugs in society over the last 38 years. What we are doing is not working.
“The status quo is not tenable. It’s getting worse. Drugs are getting cheaper, stronger, more readily available and more dangerous. I have come reluctantly over the years to the conclusion that we need to regulate the market.”
Barton has told his Durham police officers not to apply to magistrates to raid premises that are suspected of growing small amounts of the drug for personal use. In addition, people that are caught using the drug will not be charged with a criminal offence but will be offered a place in Checkpoint, a rehabilitation programme.
He stated that this will improve the quality of policing in Durham:
“We want to harness our energies and focus on industrial-scale drug dealers who are damaging society,” he said. “It frees up time to investigate more serious crime – that’s why we have a good detection rate.”
Mike Barton has previously expressed controversial approaches to drug use in the UK. In 2017 he suggested that addicts should be given free heroin in controlled environments to reduce crime associated with usage.
Barton’s call for a rethink of approach to drug policy has been supported by the vice-treasurer of the Police Federation, Simon Kempton.
He said, “The Police Federation believe that it’s time to have an informed and open public debate on the future of drugs legislation incorporating health, education and enforcement programmes.”
“After 100 years of prohibition on the use of drugs, it’s time to ask whether this approach is working to address the issues around drug use.”
Photograph: Durham Constabulary