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Sell cannabis in off-licences, says police boss

Cannabis joints for sale in Vancouver, Canada. Credit: PA

A police boss says cannabis should be sold in off-licences.

The North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner says he doesn't see why recreational drugs such as cannabis should not be sold in the same way as alcohol, over-the-counter in licensed shops.

He also believes that hard drugs like heroin and cocaine should be available on prescription from pharmacies.

I want to see drugs controlled and sold by responsible retailers similar to off-licences that sell alcohol. I don’t see a difference between the use of alcohol and the use of cannabis. If we went back to day one, and we were legislating this again I’m sure people would realise that alcohol causes a lot more harm than cannabis does and I think the categorisation would reflect that. But we are where we are, alcohol is legal and cannabis is illegal and it is illogical to have it like that.

– North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones
Cannabis is legal to buy in some US states. Credit: PA

Speaking after he had made an appeal to MPs at Westminster to legalise drugs, Mr Jones said there had been unforeseen consequences of the prohibition of drugs that caused more problems than it had solved.

He said: “Hard drugs like cocaine and heroin could be sold or prescribed from a secure pharmacy. But I think cannabis could be sold with the same level of security as alcohol is sold at now in an off-licence.

"This would be with suitable age restrictions to prevent children buying it which is something we do not have now.”

Mr Jones said that the war on drugs had failed, was only making addiction a criminal offence and was a waste of police time.

"A lot of the addiction and the harm that is caused is caused because of the illegality of drugs. People are taking substances that they haven't got a clue what is in them. At least if we regulated them it would be the same as alcohol, we'd know what the strength of what they were taking was.

"People would be able to chose which cannabis, whether it was high THC or high CBD cannabis which would affect the mental health aspect," he said.

Marijuana shop in San Diego. Credit: PA

He added: "A lot of the problems around drugs are caused by prohibition and strong enforcement. It just doesn't work. I think prohibition kills a lot of people unnecessarily and if we did regulate, we could divert police resources towards harmful behaviours like child sexual exploitation, domestic abuse and modern slavery.

"Prosecution for minor possession of drugs is a waste of time."

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones.

Mr Jones, a former police officer, told MPs that he first decided that drugs should be legalised when he witnessed the response to a similar call by the then Chief Constable for North Wales, Richard Brunstrom.

"When Richard Brunstrom, my former Chief Constable produced his report back in 2007 around the regulation of drugs he was vilified across North Wales and the UK. I read that report and I thought yes the penny drops what he's saying in here makes absolute sense."

As of 2018, some of the countries with the laxest cannabis laws are:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Czech Republic
  • India
  • Israel
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • Portugal
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Uruguay
  • US states of Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Washington DC.

UK Drugs Law:

Type of drugs: Crack cocaine, cocaine, ecstasy (MDMA), heroin, LSD, magic mushrooms, methadone, methamphetamine (crystal meth). Possession: A sentence of up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both. Production: Up to life in prison, an unlimited fine or both

Type of drugs: Amphetamines, barbiturates, cannabis, codeine, ketamine, methylphenidate (Ritalin), synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cathinones (eg mephedrone, methoxetamine). Possession: Up to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both Production: Up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both