The police seized substantially more cannabis in 2020 as they targeted more manufacturers and cultivators during the first coronavirus lockdown in the UK.
According to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted by iNews, 25% more cannabis was seized in the country in 2020 than in the year previous as police forces took advantage of the stay-at-home orders.
iNews reports that 38 forces carried out a total amount of 9,145 cannabis seizures in 2020 compared with 7,240 in 2019.
Detective Chief Inspector Nick Dale, of the force’s serious and organised crime and exploitation hub, said: “If we tackle the neighbourhood-level cannabis grows, target the network of people who are leading to that criminality and making the most money, then that is where we will see the success lie.”
The data also shows that West Midlands police forces carried out the most operations (1297) targeting cannabis gangs in England, while the numbers in South Yorkshire, Lancashire, Dorset, and Essex, to name a few, also increased significantly.
At the same time, police officers in England and Wales carried out 695,009 stop and search operations in the year to March 2021, which is a rise of 24 per cent the previous year.
Dr Laura Garius from Release told the paper: “In the midst of a pandemic, the police focused their resources on policing drug activity.
“People buying cannabis are more likely to report an increase in their cannabis use over the pandemic, rather than a decrease in their use.
“This may indeed be indicative of an increase in domestic cultivation. However, police statistics are reflective of policing activity and priorities, rather than being an accurate reflection of market activity.”
It is reported that black people are 12 times more likely than their white counterparts to be prosecuted for cannabis possession, analysis of Ministry of Justice data has shown.
Katrina Ffrench, the founder and director of Unjust, an organisation committed to achieving racial equity and social justice, added: “For decades the Home Office has actively maintained and pursued policies that have been detrimental to Black communities.
“Rather than acknowledging that prohibition has failed the Home Office is determined to forge ahead with carceral responses and propagate falsehoods around lawlessness. Bold leadership is needed to reform drug policy in the UK. Enough is enough.”
Many have had enough of this rhetoric and are beginning to call for reforms to cannabis and policing policy: Scotland, for example, has recently introduced a new approach and essentially decriminalised cannabis possession.
In Scotland, police officers can currently hand out warnings for those caught in possession of Class B and Class C drugs; under the new guidelines, this practice will be extended to Class A drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, Ecstasy and LSD.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has recently announced a new pilot scheme that would essentially decriminalise cannabis possession in three London boroughs for people aged 18-24.