The Police and Crime Commisioner for Durham has vowed he has not gone soft on drugs.
Ron Hogg has spoken out after he revealed he wanted to see cannabis users in County Durham and Darlington put on courses to deal with their habits rather than being arrested and prosecuted.
His idea would see those caught with the class B drug being able to swap a conviction for a Checkpoint contract.
They would then work with Durham Constabulary to break their drug habit. However, those who fail to engage would be prosecuted.”
In the past 12 months the force has issued 343 cannabis warnings to users - one almost every day.
He says he would much rather see organised crime groups who produce cannabis targeted rather than those who use it for personal use.
“Reducing harm. Harm to communities and harm to individuals. Everything I say or do about drugs is rooted in this aim,” said Mr Hogg.
“So when I say I don’t want to see small time personal users prosecuted, it’s because I don’t think it’s the best way of tackling harm. Nor do I think it is the best use of the scant resources of the police or the courts.
“Cannabis divides opinion. To some, it’s a hugely harmful drug connected with psychosis. To others, it’s a painkiller that some people turn to for help, particularly with conditions like arthritis and rheumatism. And this has led some places, like Colorado, in the US, to legalise it for medicinal purposes.
“What is beyond doubt is that people who grow, produce, and deal in illegal drugs are exploitative criminals who are causing misery to thousands.
“As such Durham Constabulary takes the production, distribution and use of drugs very seriously. The police work in partnership with the councils, directors of public health and the fire service to deliver drug strategies to people that are effective, while continuing to target the organised criminals who seek to make a profit by shattering the lives of others.”