The UK’s police forces now wield greater discretion when charging suspects with weed crimes, which includes looking the other way entirely.
On Sunday, the National Police Chiefs’ Council made an announcement that UK police may choose whether to enforce British law or to simply let the accused go free, without warning. In the UK, weed possession without medical approval can net a prison sentence of up to five years with no limit on fines.
“There is strong evidence to suggest that recommending minor offenders for early intervention treatment instead of pursuing convictions can prevent re-offending and result in the best outcome for both the user and the criminal justice system,” said Jason Harwin, the council’s Lead on Drug Crime, according to The Daily Mail.
Police are wary to even issue warnings for minor pot offenses, since “official warnings” can still negatively impact an individual’s record, hurting one’s chances to get a job, enter university, or find a place to live.
The UK’s anti-weed warriors, unsurprisingly, took issue with the announcement.
“This is astonishing in view of the cumulative relationship between cannabis and violence,” said Kathy Gyngell, an editor at Conservative Women, as reported by The Daily Mail. “This is symptomatic of the politically influenced easier-to-say-yes-than-no culture of present-day policing.”
The UK has, in many respects, essentially decriminalized cannabis for personal use, although prohibition remains on the books. Between 2015 and 2018, weed prosecutions in England and Wales fell by 19 percent.
Last year, the UK legalized medical marijuana for some debilitating conditions. However, many patients have complained about lack of access and product shortages. Over the weekend, UK customs confiscated a 9-year-old epileptic patient’s medical cannabis.
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