CANNABIS is not a priority but police must enforce the law, according to Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl.

Mr Surl, who was re-elected into his second term as PCC in May, has outlined Gloucestershire Police’s views on Britain’s most popular illegal drug in a recent statement.

The former policeman says that police cannot pick and choose which laws they follow, but notes the lack of desire to criminalise people unnecessarily.

The statement reads: “Recent articles on the use of cannabis seem not only to have re-opened the debate on the use of class B drugs, but also raised questions about what should be priorities for the police and how they should interpret the law.

“It is not my place to comment on the five forces who have decided not to arrest people using marijuana for their own personal use as that is a matter for them. The primary role of the police is to keep people safe and after that they enforce the law.

“As enforcers, the police cannot pick and choose which laws they implement though there are a range of actions available to them. The Chief Constable and I agree we should never criminalise people unnecessarily and with that in mind Gloucestershire Constabulary’s position on cannabis is clear.

“Anyone suspected of possessing the drug will be dealt with proportionately, which means action taken against them may range from a warning to an arrest depending on the circumstances. This flexibility is intended to reflect the world of difference between a teenager caught experimenting – where a parent might be grateful for a tip-off without having to pay a visit to the cells – and a hardened user who commits crime to fund a habit.

“It also recognises that cannabis can have medical benefits for some while for others it can be the gateway to mental illness and dependence on harder drugs. We also know that in some cases those who supply or produce cannabis can go on to deal in more harmful substances. In those cases, more serious action is warranted.

“It is an issue that will persist for as long as people want to misuse drugs, and anyone who thinks it is a war the police can win on their own is sadly mistaken. The police can do their bit to stem the tide but along with others like the health service, can only do their best to deal with the fallout.

“There is no doubt the misuse of class A drugs like heroin is at the root of much of the crime in Gloucestershire and is contributing to an increase in burglaries and knife crime. Reducing crime, as laid-down by the Home Secretary, is the main responsibility of all Police and Crime Commissioners and whilst getting as many class A drugs and their dealers off the streets is clearly desirable, it does not make targeting cannabis a Police and Crime Plan priority.

“When I sought re-election, I made it clear in my manifesto that I would require the Chief Constable to set at least five operational priorities every six months which must be based upon the level of threat, risk and harm to the communities and people of Gloucestershire and on community intelligence. Examples of these operational priorities could be knife crime, burglary and cyber frauds against elderly people but are unlikely to be targeting cannabis users for their own sake.

“The Chief Constable will set the operational priorities for her officers based on events, intelligence and past mistakes and find the best ways of achieving them. The police must be able to demonstrate to me as Commissioner, and the public, that crime reduction and prevention is embedded into everything they do. Progress will be reported to me and local people via regular public webcasts.”