Former Metropolitan police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe has urged the government to review the evidence that justifies the ongoing criminalisation of cannabis use after a host of leading clinical bodies called for changes.
Lord Hogan-Howe, who has always supported tough laws on cannabis, said that if he was home secretary he would hold an “urgent commission of experts to look at the evidence about what’s happening about cannabis in North America”.
He said: “We already know from the evidence around the world that where people use it for medicinal purposes, it slides into recreational. Surely it’s better that we get ready for that potential change.”
His intervention follows the legalisation of recreational cannabis in Canada last week, its decriminalisation in Uruguay, Portugal and in several US states, and the relaxation of cannabis laws in the UK to allow the prescription of cannabis-based medicines from next month.
Hogan-Howe, who was Britain’s most senior police officer before he retired last year, stopped short of calling for an immediate law change, but said he had seen “clear evidence” to warrant a meaningful review of cannabis prohibition.
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“I think we need to get on with it, now the government has made it easier to get medical cannabis on prescription,” he said. “We’re lucky; we’re not the pioneers and we can learn from others’ mistakes. The evidence is out there and it shouldn’t be ignored.”
Hogan-Howe joins a growing list of prominent figures who have cast doubt on the coherence of the UK’s approach to enforcing laws that are often ignored with impunity, given that a number of police forces have publicly said they would not prosecute perpetrators of low-level cannabis offences.