An ex-cop councillor has called for cannabis to be legalised, claiming the current laws for tackling the Class B drug are “knackered”.
Coun Matt Wynne previously served with Cheshire Police, but now represents the people of Edgeley and Cheadle Heath, while studying for a graduate diploma in law.
He recently accompanied police on a raid of a Stockport house where cannabis was being grown on a ‘commercial scale’.
While the warrant – part of Operation Avro – threw up few surprises for Coun Wynne, it did reinforce his belief that an overhaul of the law is long overdue.
“I have increasingly thought for a good number of years that how we ‘deal’ with cannabis in this country is knackered,” he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service .
“ In the living room was a lad in handcuffs, mustn’t have been much over 20, every room bar the living room was full of cannabis plants near ready for harvest.
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“As a former police officer back in my salad days I regularly went on such warrants so wasn’t too surprised by what I saw.
“Ten years on nothing has changed except the technology for growth seems to have advanced, bar it seems common knowledge that the business operation is much more lucrative.”
The 30-year-old travelled to Montreal in September to visit his partner, who was working out there at the time.
Canada legalised cannabis in 2018 and Coun Wynne says it was ‘impressive’ to see the system the country now has in place.
“A quality controlled product regulated by the government, licensed by the government, sold by government employees out of the hands of organised crime gangs,” said Coun Wynne.
The Edgeley-based councillor also says he never encountered anyone smoking cannabis on the streets, or caught the smell of it while going about his business.
“It is working over there,” he said.
“That is the reason I think its so prolific here on street level – which I detest by the way – it’s anti-social.
“People smoke it as they know it’s a taboo, it’s an act of obtuse subversion. It feels like you can’t walk down many streets in Greater Manchester without smelling it.”
And he believes the UK is taking a backward approach compared to countries such as Canada, Portugal and the Netherlands ‘that have realised the war on cannabis is lost’.
“Even one of the more conservative European nations Germany announced the intention to legalise it in December 2021,” he added.
“Here successive governments have stuck their head in the sand, hoping it all goes away, terrified of voter repercussions for daring to mention it whilst organised crime gangs grow richer from it every day.
“Young people are exploited and brought in to sell it on the streets as it pays better and gives a status better than any job they could get would, all the while society pays the price for an absence of policy – domestic premises meant for families appropriated for the operation, people trafficked from around the world to grow it, residents that suffer from the risk to fire caused when the electricity supply is bypassed in homes to manufacture it.”
Coun Wynne added that ‘the spill over of violence in the community’ is an inevitable consequence of ‘fierce market competition’ among dealers.
And he lamented that the police have to spend vital resources ‘fighting the never-ending war on drugs’, while the NHS is ‘having to deal with public health issues caused through usage’.
“You will find no-one against legalisation and regulation of cannabis, more than an organised criminal that is making a living out of it. I see this in front of me as a local politician,” said Coun Wynne.
As a Labour councillor, however, he is aware that his stance is very much at odds with that of his party leader.
Last year Sir Keir Starmer told Sky News he had ‘never subscribed’ to the legalisation argument, having ‘seen too much damage’ in his past role as a prosecutor.
He reiterated his view during a recent phone-in with LBC, saying he did not agree with changing the law – albeit he was in favour of more ‘health responses’ and ‘anything that helps people with addiction’.
“I’m certainly not defending my Party’s view on the issue,” said Coun Wynne.
“Clearly the leadership is trying to rightfully address the increasing concerns working people have on drugs and street crime, which we have seen over the last decade, but promising to uphold the status quo is ignoring the reality of what harm an absence of policy is causing.
“Hopefully the stance will change in good time.”