Give prisoners free cannabis to prevent drugs deaths, says North Wales Police boss

In the UK, the use of cannabis recreationally is against the law but it can be legally prescribed for medical purposes. Credit: PA Images

A North Wales Police boss believes prisons should trial giving free cannabis to inmates, to help reduce violence and drug problems inside.

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, Arfon Jones, said the idea could also prevent overdose deaths in prisons.

Speaking during an interview for the Guardian newspaper, Mr Jones said if justice authorities were serious about reducing harms and violence in prisons, “they should be addressing the causes” such as the cheap, synthetic cannabinoid - Spice.

Spice can be deadly, unlike cannabis. In 2018, a 22-year-old prisoner called Luke Morris Jones, from Blaenau Ffestiniog, died at HMP Berwyn after taking Spice.

Cannabis, or marijuana, contains the active ingredient THC - which is what gives the drug its psychoactive properties. Credit: PA Images

Use of illegal drugs is a widespread issue in prisons and many are also lawfully given heroin substitutes, like methadone, to manage their dependency.

Other drugs that are commonly prescribed include strong analgesics, which are addictive and potentially dangerous.

In the UK, the use of cannabis recreationally is against the law but it can be legally prescribed for medical purposes, though with significant restrictions.

Mr Jones said access to the full extract cannabis oil through the NHS is virtually impossible.

The former police inspector said: “Opioids are a damn sight more dangerous than cannabis.

“If they’re on opioids, why can’t they be prescribed cannabis?”

“Let’s supply cannabis in controlled conditions and see if offences reduce.

"The aim of the game is to make prisons safer. If they’re serious about reducing violence in prisons they should be addressing the causes and that’s psychoactive substances.

"Plus there’s a whole range of issues that cannabis would be geared to reduce the risk of."

Arfon Jones has previously advocated for cannabis to be sold in off-licences.

The idea of trialling free cannabis in prisons was floated in 2018 by the pharmacologist Dr Stephanie Sharp.

She said that leaving prisoners to smoke spice was “condemning them to death” and that allowing then to smoke cannabis would be “much safer”.

Mr Jones has often advocated for changes to the laws around cannabis, believing people should be allowed to grow a limited amount of the substance for their own personal use.

Cannabis is legal in some US states and products containing CBD - items derived from cannabis but without the THC - are sold across the UK. Credit: PA Images

He said outlawing cannabis completely is counter-productive and it should be controlled under law, just as alcohol and tobacco are.

He added: “It is a nonsense to criminalise people who take cannabis for recreational use and cause no harm to anybody else.

“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."