The Daily Telegraph has run an article saying that “police have been accused of giving tacit support to ‘cannabis clubs’ where paying members can meet and take the drug without fear of prosecution”.
Claiming that “police leaders have been rebuked by the Government”, the paper quotes a Home Office spokesman who says: “The trade and possession of recreational cannabis is illegal in the UK, regardless of where you use it,” said the spokesman.
“Scientific and medical evidence is clear that recreational cannabis use can cause harm to individuals and society. Those using it should be in no doubt that if they are caught they face prosecution and a maximum jail term of five years.
“How police choose to pursue investigations is an operational decision for Chief Constables, but we are clear that we expect them to enforce the law.”
The paper targets two Police and Crime Commissioners who “have visited or endorsed the clubs”, Arfon Jones of North Wales Police and Hardyal Dhindsa of Derbyshire.
It is well known that police have deprioritised targeting low-level cannabis possession, partly because of shrinking budgets and falling staff numbers. The article infers that there was an explosion of cannabis clubs because the police allowed it, when of course the real reason was because of the need for access to medication.
Jones, who visited the Teesside UKCSC last year, is quoted: “I wanted to see how it was run. The members bring their own cannabis – it isn’t grown on the premises and they’re not dealing or supplying.
“There are 150 members paying £35 a year and why not? There are pubs and clubs where people go and drink alcohol so why shouldn’t consenting adults be able to use cannabis recreationally and without causing anyone any harm. The location is such that there is no NIMBYism.”
Dhindsa (left), who is also the national lead on substance misuse, has called for a national policy on cannabis clubs to be introduced. He said: “The war on drugs is not working. My job is to find good practice for enforcement and treatment, and trying to find consensus. Unfortunately in this area there is not really a consensus.
“I personally, as the national lead, will look into this to see what the extent of the activity is with these clubs and how police forces have responded to this activity.”
But the paper also quotes National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Drugs, Commander Simon Bray, who said: “The possession of cannabis at so-called cannabis clubs is a criminal offence. It is a matter for chief constables, in liaison with their police crime commissioners, to determine the operational priorities for their force. Likewise, chief constables will determine how they address local crime issues of concern.”
The paper asked UKCSC chairman Greg de Hoedt about the clubs. He explained that he started the network after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and finding that, after travelling to the US, only cannabis put it into remission.
He said: “I was invited out by people who ran a dispensary and they gave me two grams of oil a day. Within six months I had a full bill of health. When I came back here I set up cannabis social club to show an alternative way that things can be done.
“If they can grow it, or have the ability to grow it, they can grow it and share it between a group of members at a fair trade cost, then that’s what they do.”
“We aren’t doing it for money, it’s not for the profit, it is so people have a safe product. Prohibition has failed. Lets just make it safer for them.”