As cuts are increasingly being made to police forces throughout the UK, the police are rethinking their priorities. The recent move taken by forces in Dorset, Surrey and Derbyshire to effectively ignore those who grow and use cannabis for personal use in order to focus on more serious crime is said to be one that is echoed around the country, although other police forces aren’t publicising it as heavily. Instead, police in such areas are choosing only to act if cannabis growth and use is presenting a problem to others.
This stance seems to support the potential legalisation of cannabis, supporters of which cite many benefits, including an economic boost of £6.7 billion if cannabis were to be taxed and regulated as opposed to remaining illegal. This, coupled with a laxer view being taken regarding the drug’s use, makes considering the impact this will have on those who work with people with substance misuse issues increasingly important. In addition the ancillary business surrounding cannabis also create an economic benefit. These include supplies to growers and producers (lights, equipment and fertilizers) along with online headshops that sell items such as beaker bongs and vape pens.
There will be a significant impact on those who take the criminal justice jobs and substance misuse jobs London, Manchester and everywhere else in the UK are currently advertising. They will have to work to enforce regulations by making sure drug use doesn’t pose a significant threat to the lives of those in their care, while ensuring they understand exactly how to deal with drug users and problems that may arise as a result.
It appears as if potential new challenges have finally been addressed. The first ever national document outlining the ways in which social workers should respond to those who have drug or alcohol problems has been released, the product of a partnership between Manchester Metropolitan University and leading social work and health organisations. This is a positive step forward as it will help to broaden those in the criminal justice and substance misuse sectors’ understanding about substance misuse, and aid in expanding on their training regarding how they should proceed with such cases.
With nearly one-third of the adult population having taken illegal drugs at some point during their lifetime, and 21% of those being regular users, drug use remains an ever-present problem in societies throughout the UK. The more relaxed stance regarding cannabis use will mean social workers will need to adopt a different approach, and hopefully the new national document will help them to do this.