'Postcode lottery' debate over cannabis offences

Only a fifth of people caught with cannabis in the Northumbria Police area last year were charged, new figures reveal.
Cannabis 'postcode lottery' debateCannabis 'postcode lottery' debate
Cannabis 'postcode lottery' debate

Campaigners say enforcement of the law dictating cannabis use is a "postcode lottery" and have called for possession of the drug to be de-criminalised altogether.

Home Office data shows that of 1,394 cannabis possession offences closed by Northumbria Police last year, 309 resulted in a charge or summons – a charge rate of 22%, although it excludes a further 58 offences that had not yet been assigned an outcome.

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Nationally, there were 117,000 cannabis possession offences recorded in 2020 – with 17% of them resulting in a charge, down from 21% in 2019.

Niamh Eastwood, executive director of drugs charity Release, said young people are disproportionately criminalised for having the drug, limiting their education and work opportunities.

She added: “It is right that most people caught in possession are not charged and avoid the burden of a criminal record but, that said, a postcode lottery exists over how this offence is treated. We need a national approach.”

The most common type of outcome recorded by Northumbria Police last year was an informal out of court disposal, which accounted for 624 offences.

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A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We have no plans to decriminalise cannabis – there is clear scientific and medical evidence that it is a harmful drug.

“The police have a range of powers to deal with drug-related offences in a way that is both proportionate and in the public interest.”