A provocative drug policy in England and Wales has UK’s arresting officers breaking out in disagreement.
Police are being asked not to stop and search citizens merely because they smell cannabis. This change in policy comes from police watchdog, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary. The report is being deemed a guideline, not a mandate, and notes that numerous stop and searches do not significantly increase the probability of an arrest. The report states that of 8,500 recorded stops, 596 were based purely on the smell of cannabis. However, it’s the behaviour of the suspects, not merely an odour, that led to the majority of convictions.
“The APP sets out that the smell of cannabis on its own, with no other contributory factors, will not normally justify a search,” the report said. “More recent research has shown that the inclusion of the smell of cannabis in officers’ grounds for search did not increase the likelihood that a search for cannabis resulted in a criminal justice outcome.”
In 2015, the County Durham crime commissioner Ron Hogg approved guidelines dictating that police resources be pulled from low-level home pot cultivators and re-directed at organized crime, dope dealers, and street gangs. Since then, more police forces throughout northeast England have followed suit, deeming petty pot crimes a cost-prohibitive pursuit, and the over-profiling of persons of colour racist in nature. Still, police can enact their stop-and-search powers if they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect the presence of prohibited drugs, weapons or stolen property.
Some senior police officers still won’t relent, however, saying they will continue to advise staff to stop people if they smell the class B drug.
Merseyside Chief Constable Andy Cooke took to Twitter to vent his frustration.
“I disagree. The guidance in my view is wrong and the law does not preclude it,” Cooke tweeted. “Smell of cannabis is sufficient to stop search and I will continue to encourage my officers to use it particularly on those criminals who are engaged in serious and organized crime.”
“If I smell Cannabis on someone or coming from a vehicle, then I’ll conduct a search. I don’t think there’s a cop in this land that wouldn’t. Recently not only had that led to me seizing quantities of Cannabis, but also arresting drivers showing with it in their system #NoBrainer”
The advice to lay off the sniff-and-stop protocol was first given to police last year and was reiterated by an Inspectorate of Constabulary this past week. Besides the report, there has been no official law change.
Alana seeks to see cannabis from the perspective of politicians, advocates, entrepreneurs, and consumers. She got her start with a byline in the arts and culture section and crossed over into cannabis after using it medicinally. Current projects include investigations into cannabis and wellness; entrepreneurs of the Green Rush; cannabis for athletes; and the evolution of cannabis laws and culture in Canada.