By The Economist. BY THE time police were called to look at “a few cannabis plants” in a wasteland in south-west London, the site played host to a forest five feet high and the area of a football pitch. Officers cordoned it off on September 25th, with what sounded almost like a touch of regret for the gardeners. “All their time, trouble and gardening skills”, said Sarah Henderson, a police constable, “will go unrewarded.”
It takes a lot for marijuana growers to attract police attention these days. In July four forces—Derbyshire, Dorset, Durham and Surrey—declared that they would henceforth respond only to tip-offs and “blatant” weed use. Many other forces have also scaled things down, albeit quietly, according to Steve Rolles of Transform, a drug-policy think-tank.
This is partly due to a lack of resources: the police budget has been cut by 25% in the past five years, and constables haven’t the time to go looking for those with “a couple of plants at home”, says Alan Charles, Derbyshire’s elected police commissioner. Many forces have anyway long been sceptical about the value of prosecuting low-level drug offenders. Pressing on with an ineffective war on drugs is “bonkers”, says Mr Charles.