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16th Oct 2022

The one place in the UK where smoking weed is tolerated

Tobi Akingbade

Do *not* going running there all at once. There is a catch …

Not long ago brand new Home Secretary Suella Braverman said she believes Cannabis should be a Class A drug like cocaine or heroin.

She has privately backed a group of Police and Crime Commissioners who are calling for tougher drug sentences.

Now, there’s a bit of a debate spiralling across British politics over what sort of approach would be the best one to tackle cannabis – but it seems as if one place in the UK has decided to step back and tolerate it.

In case you are not aware of the current law, if you’re caught in possession of a Class B drug like weed, you can get hit with a sentence of up to five years behind bars, while having Class A drugs can get you locked up for seven years.

While decriminalisation of the drug is a global topic, it is not taking off across the UK just yet. There is, however, one place in the UK where the police take a different tack when it comes to weed and you’ll probably never guess where it is.

It’s Durham.

Back in 2015, Durham police crime commissioner Ron Hogg decided the police should take a new approach and no longer actively pursue weed smokers or small scale growers.

He wanted officers to focus their efforts on more serious crimes.

This not mean you can go to Durham and parade the city with a spliff in your hand without facing consequences.

Like the rest of the country, cannabis is still as illegal in Durham.

Chronicle Live reported that police busted someone in Durham for growing 200 cannabis plants back in July.

However, The Times visited Durham in 2018 to see how the changes were going and found some very chilled out people saying the ‘police aren’t bothered at all’, but a 700 strong weed event did get closed down.

A spokesperson from Durham Constabulary was adamant to stress they still punish people for cannabis related offences but their focus is on the gangs who supply the drugs rather than the users who buy them.

They said: “Cannabis is an illegal drug and anyone caught smoking it in public in County Durham and Darlington can expect to face arrest by our officers.

“However, our attention is focussed less on low level users and more on disrupting the activities of those Organised Criminal Gangs which profit from the supply of drugs and those dealers who harm our communities.”

This comes after police chiefs said cannabis should be upgraded to a class A drug because they believe it causes the same harm as crack and cocaine, reports  The Telegraph.

[caption id="attachment_363491" align="alignnone" width="2048"] (Picture: Getty)

Responding to reports that Braverman wants to upgrade cannabis to a class A drug, Labour shadow minister Jonathan Ashworth said his “understanding” of the medical advice is that it should remain a class B substance.

He told Times Radio’s Sunday Morning with Kate McCann and Adam Boulton that policy should follow the “relevant” medical advice, adding: “Well at the moment my understanding is the recommendations is it should be class B but I’m not an expert, I’ve not kept up to date with what their latest research suggests, but that’s always been my understanding.”

A Home Office source told PA that while Ms Braverman is “receptive” to the PCCs’ position, “we need to really understand what will be most effective means to improving enforcement”.

Asked about the reports the Home Secretary wants to upgrade the drug to Class A, the source said: “That is a very big stretch of the imagination.

“Her position on this is that effectively cannabis has been legalised by not being policed properly. We need to focus attention on changing that.”

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