The website of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners describes its members as “the voice of the people” who “hold the police to account.” In 2012, they replaced police authorities, which were perceived as lacking accountability. They are elected for terms of four years. There is one for every part of England and Wales except Greater Manchester and London, which have mayors. They appoint chief constables and can fire them. They set police objectives in their area.
Arfon Jones, the police and crime commissioner of North Wales and a member of the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru, has made a call to sell cannabis over the counter in off-licences, just like alcohol. He feels that the legalisation of harder drugs, like heroin and cocaine, “is something that needs to be considered.”
Jones opined that he sees no difference in taking alcohol and taking cannabis. Except that alcohol causes considerably more harm, and it is “illogical” that, in the United Kingdom, it is legal to sell alcohol but not to sell cannabis, let alone in off-licences. Not long ago, he spoke at Westminster to encourage MPs to legalise drugs.
The war on drugs is a failure
Jones believes the war on drugs has been a failure, making addiction a criminal offence and wasting police time. People have no idea what is in drugs, but if they were legal, their strength would be known. And if it was legal to sell cannabis, there would be an age restriction, which is not the case while they remain illegal. If cannabis was legal, sayeth Jones, police could devote their time to things that mattered, such as child sexual exploitation, domestic abuse and modern slavery.
Jones was a policeman in North Wales until his retirement in 2008. He first realised legalising drugs was a good idea when Richard Brunstrom, then chief constable of North Wales, made the suggestion in 2007: “I read that report, and I thought, yes, the penny drops.” Jones’ position on drugs was set out in his election manifesto, which he credits for securing election in 2016 “with a significant majority.” Darren Millar, the Conservative member of the Welsh Assembly for Clwyd West, described Jones’ position as “reckless and misguided.”
The Portuguese experience
Portugal decriminalised drugs in 2001; it’s legal to possess but not sell cannabis. The country sees three deaths from drug overdose per million people compared to 44.6 in the United Kingdom. Narcotics police chief Artur Vaz agreed with Jones, declaring, “It frees up our time so we can go after the serious and organised crime.” Jones recently visited the country to be told that penalties “might work if someone robbed a bank, but not if you are a drug user.”
Other people agree
The esteemed British Medical Journal has also recently come out in favour of legalisation. Ex-Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg is also on record stating that the United Kingdom’s approach to drugs should be altered: “If we keep doing the same thing, the only people that benefit are criminals.”