Study reveals East of England as cannabis use hotspot

The number of assaults peaked at 462 the year before – having almost doubled from 275 in 2014/15

Police in Suffolk say they continue to tackle drug-related criminality - Credit: Archant

The East of England is a hotspot for cannabis consumption, according to a study, and experts say it’s because of lockdowns and the internet. 

A study by rehab clinic Delamere based on data from the Office for National Statistics revealed there are 14,125 users of the Class B drug in the region.

Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst at Transform, a charity that researches drug policy, said there had been an increase in the use of cannabis over the past decade - particularly among people aged between 16 and their mid-30s.

Mr Rolles said that, in the East of England, this increase may have been driven by increased use of smartphones and the 'dark web' which made drugs more accessible in rural locations. 

During the lockdowns, he said, the use of 'party drugs' – like cocaine and ecstasy – had gone down, but the use of cannabis had gone up.

Another factor he cited was a lack of things for young people to do in the area.

The "obvious answer" to rural drug use, he said, was to “invest in young people" by providing "meaningful activities" that would keep them "challenged and motivated" and prevent them from developing "unhealthy behaviours".

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A spokesman for Suffolk police said: “Suffolk Constabulary prioritises the enforcement of controlled drug-related criminality based on threat, harm and risk. Whilst the greatest harm is often associated with Class A drugs we recognise that these can also exist in respect of cannabis and therefore we undertake enforcement activity when it is appropriate to do so.

“Whilst there can be health benefits to those using prescribed medicinal cannabis, with the change of legislation in November 2018 in respect of prescribed medical use, many people underestimate the potential harm that the criminal use of cannabis for personal use may cause. 

"The strength of cannabis of today far exceeds the strength and effects of previous years. We also recognise the impairment to driving caused by cannabis use and the potential danger that those driving under the influence of cannabis put themselves and others in.

“The force continues to tackle drug-based criminality. Since May 2019 three Sentinel teams have been launched to disrupt criminals across the county’s road network, including those involved in drug-based crime.”

The spokesman urged people in Suffolk to be “vigilant” for suspicious activity and to contact the force if they suspect drug-related activity in their community.