A man looking to take over responsibility for policing in County Durham for the Liberal Democrats is calling for the legalisation of cannabis.
Craig Martin, the party's candidate for Durham Police and Crime Commissioner, is supporting calls for a regulated cannabis market, a move he says will will improve health and reduce crime across the area.
Mr Martin said the the current war on drugs wasn't working and a new, evidence-led approach was needed.
"This policy will raise £1 billion in tax," he said.
"That’s £1billion taken out of organised crime, making County Durham and Darlington safer. This money can then be invested in our stretched NHS and mental health services to provide the support users aren’t getting, but need.
"The officers I’ve spoken to are frustrated by wasting their time and resources processing cannabis users as criminals. These people shouldn’t be considered as criminals when they’re taking a drug that is arguably less harmful than alcohol and less likely to provoke fights on Friday and Saturday nights.
"Recent Home Office figures suggest there are 40,000 people who’ve used cannabis in County Durham and Darlington over the course of the last year. Requiring the police to pursue cannabis users is as absurd as suggesting that the 1,100 officers of Durham would be able to arrest everyone that attends a Sunderland Premier League game.
"These numbers are unmanageable for a force that has had one of the largest reductions of police numbers in the country.
"The Home Office continues to support a zero tolerance approach but over the last 15 years next to no progress has been made on reducing drug use. It’s time to focus on the real drugs issues whilst allowing the state to control cannabis and improve the health and safety of those that use it.”