The North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner has welcomed a report from a group of cross-party MPs who predict the UK will fully legalise cannabis within five to 10 years.
Arfon Jones, a former police inspector, is a long-time advocate of drugs reform and says the conclusions of the MPs’ fact-finding trip to Canada are a step in the right direction.
Last year Canada became the first G7 country to allow recreational use of cannabis which is designated as a Class B drug in the UK and anyone caught with it could face up to five years in prison.
There has already been some change in the UK with a shift in approach towards medicinal cannabis products, which can now be legally prescribed to some patients.
According to the MPs, they would like to see cannabis being decriminalised and regulated so that it cuts out the drugs gangs.
Mr Jones said: “I very much welcome this report and an important contribution to the debate about our antiquated drugs legislation which is not fit for purpose.
“We lost the war against drugs a long time ago and it is time we recognised this and tried a new approach.
“I also sense the tide of public opinion is turning in favour of doing things differently.
“It’s clear the current method of tackling organised crime through the Criminal Justice System is not effective.
“Once one group has been removed, another replaces it within days, which inevitably leads to further violence and exploitation.
Trying to arrest our way out of the distribution and cultivation of drugs is not working and quite frankly hasn’t been working for a long, long time – so we clearly need to look at other ways we can remove organised crime from our communities.
“It is a nonsense to criminalise people who take cannabis for recreational use and cause no harm to anybody else.
Cannabis should be regulated just like alcohol and tobacco – which actually cause more harm to individuals and to society in general.
“We should introduce a licencing system so that cannabis can be sold through pharmacies and in shops as happens in Canada, Uruguay and certain states in America
“The best way to reduce the role of organised crime in the supply of drugs is to put it in commercial hands and to price it appropriately so people don’t need to go to the illegal market.
“Commercial organisations have taken over the medicinal cannabis market and are selling prescriptions at a vast cost even though it is cheap to grow. That’s just exploitation in my book.
“My view is that people should be allowed to grow a limited number of cannabis plants for their own use.
“Let’s face it there are probably hundreds of thousands of people in this country who grow cannabis in their own homes now.
“They’re not harming anybody else and there is no reason why they should be punished through the criminal justice system.
“It would be sensible to follow the example of Spanish cannabis clubs where people are allowed to grow seven or eight cannabis plants in the club.
“If you were starting from scratch, I think cannabis would be more lightly regulated than alcohol is now because I think everybody agrees that alcohol is far more harmful to individuals than cannabis is.
“Just like alcohol, you should have age restrictions on the purchase and consumption of cannabis is a regulated market.
“In the autumn I will be launching a new scheme called Checkpoint in North Wales – after it was developed by Cambridge University and successfully trialled in Durham – which is designed to divert low level offenders away from criminality.
“We need to recognise that 90 per cent of drug consumption including cannabis is recreational use and non-problematic.
In those cases, people should be given some educational information and that would be the end of the matter.
Meanwhile, the legal position in relation to medicinal cannabis has been well and truly fudged as a matter of political expediency to avoid a PR disaster caused by the heart-rending cases of several children like the chronically ill Billy Caldwell who needs cannabis oil to ward off life-threatening fits.
“It is also unjust and cruel that people living with conditions like multiple sclerosis who use cannabis are putting themselves at risk of being prosecuted.”