The government is currently consulting on tougher penalties that could see recreational drug users lose their passports and driving licences. It comes as the latest Home Office figures show that crimes of possession of cannabis have fallen by 10 per cent in Hampshire since the Covid-19 pandemic.
Before the pandemic, in the year ending March 2020, Hampshire Police recorded 2,875 crimes of possession of cannabis. The following year – after lockdown restrictions were introduced – that rocketed by 35 per cent to 3,892 offences.
Possession currently remains 22 per cent higher than it was pre-pandemic. It is thought that the most likely reason for this is that police were more likely to stop people during the pandemic, for example on suspicion of breaching lockdown rules, and that may have led to officers finding cannabis on more people than during a normal year.
However, comprehensive data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales shows that the pandemic did not disrupt the drug trade. In fact, around 1.8 million adults aged between 18 and 59 smoked cannabis during the pandemic.
In Hampshire, police were most likely to find cannabis on people in Portsmouth, where last year there were 782 offences recorded. That equates to around 36 crimes for every 10,000 of the population.
This was followed by Southampton (23 per 10,000 residents) and Isle of Wight (18 per 10,000 residents). Separate court figures show that during the calendar year 2021, 242 people were convicted of possession of cannabis in Hampshire, including three people who received immediate custodial sentences.
Meanwhile, across England and Wales during the year ending March 2022, police recorded 106,814 offences of possession of cannabis. This was a 21 per cent drop from the previous year and 6 per cent lower than the pre-pandemic year.