In the United States, the Federal government tries to bust people for cannabis even if they are abiding by their state’s laws for possession or commercial sales. Busting the “bad guys” is too deeply ingrained in American culture, much to our dismay. But in England, the opposite is happening. Despite the fact that cannabis remains illegal for the time being, arrests and citations have dropped sharply. It leads you to wonder: is weed low key legal in the UK?
Police realize there are bigger issues
Since 2010, the number of people getting busted for cannabis has fallen sharply across the UK. Possession arrests have dropped by 48%, Cautions by 48%, and charges by 33%.
Have most people in the UK stopped smoking cannabis? Rather, more than ever are partaking for recreational or medical purposes. In the last few years, although the laws haven’t changed, the law enforcement has.
Durham’s police chief said cannabis growers wouldn’t be targeted unless they grow on a commercial basis. As for consumers, he said as long as the smoking wasn’t “blatant”, they wouldn’t be targeted, either.
By the numbers
Now, police only charge an average of 1 in 4 people, or 27%. Another 40% only face cautions, and the rest get a dirty or amused look. In some areas, as few as 14% of cannabis users actually face charges for the class B substance. Still, between 2011 and 2015, that totals 471,202 cases of cannabis possession from 31 out of 43 police jurisdictions.
Not an isolated attitude
Four other police chiefs have followed Durham’s approach and made similar announcements. Even more telling? They have actually kept their word. The numbers above attest to that. Some in law enforcement have gone so far as to recount the medical benefits of the controversial plant, going against the official doctrine of the British government.
In addition, Leader of the National Police Chiefs council Sara Thorton stated that enforcing laws over weed has “never been a top priority”. She stated that police are more likely to simply record reports of small-scale growing operations, rather than actively investigating and pursuing them.
So where is weed low key legal in the UK?
Now this good news comes with a warning. Not all jurisdictions have the same attitude. West Midlands reported a 40% rise in arrests for cannabis users. They have made it a point to show their “tough on drugs” attitude extends to plant life too. Hampshire charges or summons 65% of cannabis users, Cheshire 64%, and South Wales 60%.
On the other hand, the lowest rates of charges come from Cambridge at 14%, and 16% in Staffordshire, Hertfordshire, Cornwall, and Devon. Durham did not respond with their numbers but stand as one of the most outspoken advocates for not charging users.
And similar to the United States, racism still rears its head carrying a badge. In London, police caution black people for cannabis 3 times more than whites, and arrested at five times the rate of white users.
So while the relaxation of cannabis law enforcement has gained widespread momentum, the landscape remains a minefield of dangers.
What are officer attitudes about cannabis where you live? Do they support legalization or decriminalization? Share with us on social media or in the comments below.