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UK: Devon Cannabis Club disappointed by crime chief's policy statement

Ed Oldfield

Exeter Express and Echo

Friday 10 Jun 2016

Devon campaigners who want cannabis legalised are disappointed that police and crime commissioner Alison Hernandez is against changing the law.

Conservative Ms Hernandez, who was elected last month to the £85,000-a-year job for Devon and Cornwall, says she opposes legalising the Class B drug.

But she supports a more relaxed police approach to personal use and admits she smoked cannabis 20 years ago.

Her comments follow a call by Durham commissioner Ron Hogg for the country's 40 PCCs to support his view that the law should be reviewed and the drug legalised for medical use.

Ms Hernandez said in a statement: "I do not think that cannabis should be legalised, because it is potentially harmful. However, I fully support the stance taken on this issue by the Devon and Cornwall force.

"They will continue to make arrests where aggravating factors point to a greater level of risk, harm or threat.

"However officers have the option to deal with this in other ways which prevents the criminalisation of many, low level, personal users, while at the same time making the most effective use of police time and resources."

A spokesman for the Devon Cannabis Club said: "Although we are saddened by Alison Hernandez's view, we are not surprised at this newly elected PCC is towing the line of her government's policy.

"Alison Hernandez suggests that cannabis is 'potentially harmful', though has not specified in what way cannabis is harmful.

"A thorough review carried out by Professor David Nutt and colleagues (The Lancet, Nutt et al. 2010) analysed the harmful effects to both the user and society of many recreational drugs used in the UK.

"The level of harm of cannabis was ranked 8th out of 20 drugs, with alcohol, heroin, cocaine and tobacco being ranked as more harmful than cannabis. So from this study it could be concluded that the legality of cannabis cannot be based on harm, because the most harmful drugs are regulated and this provides safeguards to the consumers.

"Devon and Cornwall police policy of arrest is rather more relaxed than other counties in the United Kingdom, although we feel that legalisation would reduce the harm further by taking the illegal trade out of the hands of serious criminals by regulating the cannabis market in the forms of specifying an age of purchase, high taxation as with tobacco and ultimately testing for quality to ensure the product is safe for consumers, as with any other market where goods are consumed.

"Other countries that have already decriminalised cannabis and other drugs, such as Portugal, have had a reduction in crime levels and have helped tackle drug addiction by delivering the correct education and information to young adults and vulnerable people."

The penalty for possessing cannabis is a maximum five years in prison, unlimited fine, or both. But police have the power to issue a warning or £90 on-the-spot fine. Supply and production are punished with up to 14 years in prison.

In an online poll carried out the Express & Echo last month, 94 per cent of the 230 voters said cannabis should legalised for licensed sale through shops and cafes. Two per cent said it should be legal for medical use only and four per said it should remain illegal because of the harm it can cause.

Devon Cannabis Club is planning a sit-down protest and picnic in Flowerpot Fields in Exeter on Saturday, August 27. The event notice on Facebook invites people to "learn about cannabis and its many great and wonderful uses, meet like-minded people and consume herb and protest." It adds: "let's lose the stigma surrounding cannabis use."

Last year police monitored the protest at the park in April but no arrests were made.




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