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"Things alter for the worse spontaneously, if they be not altered for the better designedly."
Francis Bacon
"Marijuana does not lead to physical dependency."
The Shafer Commission of 1970
"What is tolerance? It's the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly that is the first law of nature."

Cannabis Enforcement FAQs

By The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO)

1. Question
  Why has there been no guidance given in respect of what constitutes a quantity of cannabis suitable for personal possession?

Both the ACPO Drugs Sub-Committee and the Home Affairs Select Committee have discussed this in great detail. Both groups firmly believe that if a specific quantity is stipulated as to what constitutes simple possession then street dealers will only carry around amounts smaller than that prescribed and carry on dealing to individuals. Secondly, there are occasions when an individual may only have a small amount but also have scales, dealers lists etc. therefore, each case will need to be looked at individually dependent on all the attendant circumstances.

Finally, it could be problematic for officers to determine weights or quantities on the street causing greater potential for inconsistent application of any policy.

2. Question
  How should the investigation of the offence on the street be conducted and recorded?
  The interview should be short but sufficient to prove the offence or identify a defence. This could be as little as two questions such as "What is this?" and "Who's is it?". This should be recorded contemporaneously in an officer's pocket book or forces could consider altering their stop and search forms to include an area for recording the interview. This has been undertaken successfully in some areas. This would reduce paperwork and bureaucracy for patrol officers. The drug must be placed in a tamperproof bag, sealed and signed in the presence of the offender.
3. Question
  In paragraph 2.1 of the Cannabis Enforcement Guidance the following phrase is used. "…the presumption should be against using this power (of arrest) for simple possession offences". What does this actually mean?

Law enforcement effort is directed at Class A drugs, particularly heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine. In reclassifying cannabis from Class B to Class C, the Government has made it quite clear that should an offender be found with a "small amount" of cannabis intended for personal use they should not, wherever possible, be arrested, "freeing up" policing time to concentrate activity against Class A drugs.

ACPO has issued the Cannabis Enforcement Guidance to assist operational officers, recognising that cannabis is an illegal drug, but not a policing priority. Consequently, an officer should presume, or take for granted, that a person in possession of a small amount of cannabis should not be arrested unless the circumstances meet the requirements of the guidelines.

4. Question
  What if an officer makes an arrest outside the guidelines? Will they be open to criticism or legal proceedings?
  The power of arrest could be used on every occasion, provided that proper grounds for the arrest exist. Therefore, ordinarily, an officer would not be open to proceedings for unlawful arrest. The issue of "criticism" is a matter for individual service policy and management.
5. Question
  What if the offender does not comply with the process, walks off and the officer is unable to identify the offender?
  If the offender cannot be identified, it cannot be ascertained if they are repeat offenders thus undermining the spirit of reclassification and this Guidance. Consequently officers may consider using their powers of arrest.
6. Question
  What means of disposal is open to an officer if a decision is made not to arrest the offender, e.g. NFA, Warning, Summons?
  One of the aims of this process is to reduce police time spent on this offence. Accordingly, unless the factors detailed in the Guidance exist, an arrest should not take place. Generally, an officer will be able to take no further action in the street other than seizure of the drug and compliance with the investigative/administrative procedure outlined in question 2. This procedure provides an opportunity for an officer to reinforce the point that cannabis is still an illegal drug and that possession in the future may result in arrest.
7. Question
  Where an officer seizes cannabis from an offender, does it have to be recorded as a crime, regardless of the disposal, e.g. NFA, Caution, Charge/Summons?

Yes, under the National Crime Recording Standards all these occasions require the completion of a crime record/report. Whilst not a judicial disposal, each case should be considered for "clear up" under current Home Office Guidelines where:

"there is sufficient admissible evidence to charge the offender but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) or a police officer of inspector rank or above decides that no useful purpose would be served by proceeding with the charge where a senior officer decides it is not in the public interest to prosecute".

The authorising officer will require a comprehensive crime report showing that there is sufficient admissible evidence to charge; an officer must be capable of identifying cannabis because of the regularity they come into contact with it and the knowledge they possess. The person should admit possession and that it is cannabis for 'personal use'.

8. Question
  These guidelines will require a significant amount of training to all police officers. What help will be given to forces to assist with this?
  Once the guidelines have been approved Centrex will devise a training package for forces to utilise before implementation of the legislation.
9. Question
  The Guidance makes reference to the word "locally" (paragraph 2.3 and 2.5). What does this mean?
  "Locally" could be defined as an Operational Policing Area, Sector, Beat or specific locality within a Community. This decision would be made by the Area Commander based on such factors as highlighted in the Guidance.