Police officers have called for drugs laws to be reconsidered after accepting for the first time that present legislation is not working.
The Police Federation’s board voted unanimously on Tuesday for a new policy on drugs, saying that 100 years of prohibition had failed.
The intervention came as Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced a review of the medicinal use of cannabis following widespread outrage over the confiscation of cannabis oil from Charlotte Caldwell, who was stopped from bringing it in to the UK for her epileptic son Billy.
Javid ruled out relaxing the law around recreational use after former Tory leader William Hague called for decriminalisation on Tuesday, insisting the war on drugs had been “comprehensively and irreversibly lost”.
Simon Kempton, the lead on drugs policy for the Police Federation of England and Wales, said it was “clear” current legislation that prohibits the possession, consumption and supply of substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 “does not work”.
“The proliferation of drugs in this country is unchecked and the current situation is fuelling an illicit trade in not only drugs but weapons and the violence that comes with it,” he wrote on the Federation’s website.
“There is mounting empirical evidence of alternative approaches to the drugs problem around the world for us to explore which are more effective and bring far more benefits to society financially and with fewer people finding themselves in either medical or criminal justice systems.”
Kempton said while the police service will continue to “uphold the laws” a public debate was needed on the future of drugs legislation, incorporating health, education and enforcement programmes.
He added: “Let me be clear - we are not supporting the legalisation of drugs or the de-criminalising of drugs we are simply saying that, 100 years after the introduction of prohibition in the UK, it is time to reflect on whether this is the most effective way of curtailing illicit drug use and the social problems that come with it.”
Cannabis possession is illegal in Britain, with users facing up to five years in prison, but some forces around the country,- including Durham - have relaxed the way they police low-level cannabis offences.
Cannabis-related arrests have drastically fallen in recent years.
Research suggests more than 14 million Britons - almost a third of the adult population - have used cannabis recreationally.