In a move, which will be seen as a further step towards decriminalisation, Durham Police has said it will only go after people growing and using the drug if there is a complaint or if they are being “blatant”.
While the force has insisted it will continue to tackle large scale cannabis farms and other areas of criminality associated with the drug, those who grow and use the cannabis at home will not be actively pursued.
The move comes in the wake of comments by the force’s Chief Constable, Mike Barton, who has argued that investigating and prosecuting drug addicts is “waste of police time”.
Crime Commissioner, Ron Hogg a former policeman himself, told the Northern Echo newspaper: “Cannabis use is still illegal and smoking it is still a crime, but if you are caught, you will get this opportunity to stop reoffending.
“By and large we are saying it is not the top of our list to go out and try to pick up people smoking joints on street corners but if it’s blatant or we get complaints, officers will act.”
He added: “It’s about keeping people out of the criminal justice system and reducing costs; it’s about being more productive with the way we approach things. It’s also about seeking to prevent future use by keeping people out of prison.
“My position is clear – I support decriminalisation of users and support debate around the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes."