Ethnic disparities in the policing and prosecution of drug offences in England and Wales

In England and in Wales the policing and prosecutions of drug possession, is focussed on black and minority communities.

Release, the UK's centre of expertise on drugs and drug law, have published a report on how drug laws are enforced in the UK.

Since 2001/02 stop and search has increased steadily, and half or more of these searches are for drugs.
For this reason in England and Wales every 58 seconds someone is stopped and searched by the police for drugs, and Black and Asian people are more likely to be stopped than white people, while white people use drugs more.
It is evident that this policing is an important driver of ethnic disparities in stop and search. This means that more black people are entering the criminal justice system as a result of drugs policing.

Since 2010, when the Crown Prosecution Service made more prosecutions for the possession of drugs than have been made since 1971 more people have been stopped for drug possession, primarily for cannabis possession.
In these years thousands of people, mainly young people from black and minority ethnic communities are being caught up needlessly in the criminal justice system every year to the detriment of their future.

Often large numbers of young people are unnecessarily criminalised, and may experience negatives outcomes in terms of education aspiration, future employment and accommodation.
That's the reason why in those communities the perception of the police often is very negative and they are unlikely to seek the assistance of the police whether as victims or witnesses of a crime.

With all the stop and searched carried out for drugs in England and Wales, the drug laws allow the police to interfere with the free movement of citizens across the country.
With high levels of interference in the lives of ordinary people and low levels of detection of drugs, drug law enforcement simply does not pay and is an area of the criminal justice system that should be reformed.

Maybe policy makers need to consider the cost to society of this policing and if this is an effective use of resources, as enforcement and legal costs are clearly significant.
The benefit of reducing, or ending, stop and searches for drug possession could have a positive impact on both policing and communities, considering that stop and search powers have been cited as a flashpoint in some of the greatest disturbances witnessed in Britain in recent years.