U.K. Police to No Longer Target Marijuana OffendersLaw Enforcement, Customs to Shift Focus From Pot to Hard Drugs

Government officials have instructed law enforcement and custom officials to stop targeting marijuana violators, including smugglers and dealers, in a move hailed as the most radical shift in British drug policy in a generation.
Representatives from Britain’s top government and law enforcement agencies – including the Home Office, Foreign Office, Ministry of Defense, National Crime Squad and the Association of Chief of Police Officers – backed the change in interdiction policy, according to a Guardian Unlimited special report published Sunday.
“It’s not that we plan to stop seizing cannabis when we come across it,” a senior Customs spokesman told the newspaper. “However, the need to focus on Class A [hard] drugs means cannabis seizures will now take place as a by-product, not an end in themselves.”
Last year, approximately 96,000 Britons were arrested on marijuana violations, the paper reported.
This week’s announcement is the latest in a series of sweeping drug policy changes taking place in United Kingdom. Recently, Scotland Yard announced that they would issue a verbal warning in lieu of arrest to marijuana offenders in southern London. Since then, several high ranking government officials, including Home Office Secretary David Blunkett, former Tory deputy leader Peter Lilley, outgoing chief inspector of prisons Sir David Ramsbotham, and former drug policy cabinet minister Marjorie Mowlam have spoken in favor of decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana. Outgoing Drug Tsar Keith Hellawell recently called for a national debate on marijuana policy and announced that he no longer believed pot is a gateway to other illegal drugs.
“The United Kingdom, like much of Europe, is realizing that a rational marijuana policy is based upon decriminalizing responsible adult use,” said Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation. “American policy makers would be well served to heed this same lesson.”
According to a poll commissioned last week by the Independent on Sunday newspaper, approximately half of all Britons support legalizing marijuana, including a majority of 16-to-34 year olds. The percentage is a marked contrast to a 1996 survey commissioned by the paper, which reported only 26 percent support for legalization.
For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500.