Around one in six people caught with cannabis charged
Around one in six people caught with cannabis in South Yorkshire last year were charged, figures reveal.
Campaigners say enforcement of the law dictating cannabis use is a "postcode lottery" and have called for possession of the drug to be decriminalised altogether.
Home Office data shows that of 2,002 cannabis possession offences closed by South Yorkshire Police last year, 356 resulted in a charge or summons.
That's a charge rate of 18 per cent, although it excludes a further 62 offences that had not yet been assigned an outcome.
Niamh Eastwood, executive director of drugs charity Release, said young people are disproportionately criminalised for having the drug, limiting their education and work opportunities.
“It is right that most people caught in possession are not charged and avoid the burden of a criminal record,” she added.
“That being said, the postcode lottery that exists in how this offence is treated is why we need a national approach.”
She said the Misuse of Drugs Act – which is 50 years old this month – has not succeeded in reducing drug use and called for decriminalisation of possession coupled with investment in treatment.
The most common type of outcome recorded by South Yorkshire Police last year was an informal out of court disposal, which accounted for 1,114 offences.
The majority of these were warnings, while the rest took the form of community resolutions, which could involve an apology and some form of reparation.
In 2019-20, a new outcome was introduced to reflect when an offender is sent on a diversion scheme, such as a drug awareness course or treatment.
South Yorkshire Police recorded using this type of scheme on 45 occasions last year, while across all police forces it was used around 2,300 times.
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 which can damage people’s mental and physical health, and harms individuals and communities.
“The police have a range of powers at their disposal to deal with drug-related offences in a way that is proportionate, and in the public interest.”