Cannabis convictions flood in – but is it the best use of police time?

News commentary by Matt Taylor A wealthy restaurant owner, Qi Xing Weng, has been convicted of conspiracy to produce cannabis in the latest of the successes of Staffordshire Police’s ongoing push against drugs in the city, Operation Nemesis. The 29-year-old businessman was found to have numerous large-scale cannabis factories in the city, and was also behind a plantation in Birmingham from which 1,400 marijuana weeds were confiscated last year in a raid on a former benefits office. Amid the investigations, a bin liner containing £170,000 in cash was found at Weng’s home in Ironbridge. Searches were also carried out at his restaurants in Stafford, Stoke, Telford, Ironbridge and Shrewsbury. More cash and evidence of cannabis growing was found in the raids. Det Sgt Dave Hughes, from the Serious and Organised Crime Unit, who led the investigation, said: “This lengthy and detailed inquiry led to the dismantling of an organised crime group which was behind wide-scale cannabis production across the West Midlands. “Cannabis factories are not just about drugs, they’re often linked to other serious crime, such as people trafficking and money laundering. We will not tolerate them, or the people behind them. “As well as tackling drug supply, Staffordshire Police is committed to taking the profit out of crime. A separate hearing will be heard in the near future course to order the removal of the assets of those convicted today." Photos of the cannabis factory in Ward End, Birmingham Earlier this year, Nemesis scooped an award for its successes, having totalled up 82 arrests, a 100 percent conviction rate, and a total of 160 years of imprisonment for those responsible. Since then, dozens more arrests have been made under the programme, with cannabis factories being found in disused warehouses and closed-down pubs breaking new records. But the question is, although criminals amassing significant wads of cash through these unlawful ventures have been held to account, is this the best use of police’s time and resources? We have seen the recent departure of the chief advisor to the government on drugs after ministers ignored his panel’s recommendations on retaining cannabis as a class C, with scientists saying that alcohol is actually more dangerous. The Cannabis Education Trust says that it doesn’t matter what classification it has, because the three or four million people who smoke it will go on using it anyway. So, even if you consider it worthy of the full weight of the law, it’s hard to believe that, with such demand, how a comparatively tiny police force will ever be able to close down such a thriving business. And besides, could time be better spent on cracking down on harder drugs which cause more misery and cause more crime? It’s well-known that the effects of heroin are far more disastrous on the lives of those who fall foul of it, and the number of small crimes committed by the same people who need to find funds to replenish their stocks. It’s also quite evident that the pill-popping, coke-snorting and amphetamine dabbing contingent contribute strongly to the out-of-control violence issues that exist in town centre nightlife. Seeing the news that another cannabis factory has been shut down is welcome in that I love to see someone making such a brilliant living by flouting the law being brought to account. But hearing that those responsible for importing, creating or distributing genuinely more dangerous drugs had been pulled in by the cops would have a much bigger impact and make me believe that an actual effort to improve things is being made, rather than an effort to get favourable headlines.