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Cannabis 'crime' statistics

This is an archve page from the year 2000. For up to date drug use statistics see the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit survey

Despite a growing relaxation in the enforcement of laws relating to cannabis, the majority (somewhere between 70 - 75%) of drugs offences relate to cannabis. By far most of these (over 90%) are simple possession charges, which can result in anything from an informal warning to a custodial sentence of several years, depending on the amount of cannabis in question, the area in the country you are in, who the arresting officer is and what the judge's personal opinions are. This inconsistency in the treatment of 'cannabis criminals' is widespread and often referred to as being 'justice by postcode'.

Statistics for drug-related arrests take some time to compile, and thus the effects of any recent changes in policy, official or not, will not be reflected immediately. At this time figures up to the year 2000 have been officially published.

The typical drug offender is a male who is just over 25 years old. 75,986 people were found guilty, cautioned, given a fiscal fine or dealt with by compounding, of a cannabis-related offence in 2000. This was a reduction from the nearly 90,000 people in the same situation during 1999, but still nearly twice the number it was 10 years before. An table illustrating the number of people involved over the past decade is shown below. For comparative purposes the number of people involved in all drug-related offences is included.

Cannabis offenders4019442209413535641872393766947290387264994678938275986
Drugs offenders44922476164892768480856919363195198114629130643121056104390

By far the majority of offences were that of unlawful possession (under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971). In 2000, there were 70,306 people dealt with for cannabis possession. A indication of the variety of punishment levied on such offenders, and its prevalence, is shown in the table below.

OutcomeCautionedFiscal fineAbsolute/conditional dischargeProbationCommunity Service / Combination OrderFineImprisonmentOther


As shown above, in 2000, about half such offences resulted in a caution. Other offences, such as supply and production, are typically punished more harshly as can be seen below which shows the ratios of outcomes during the year of 2000.

OffenceUnlawful productionUnlawful supplyPossession with intent to supply unlawfullyUnlawful possession
Offences committed19602209357670306
Outcome of caution23%14%8%48%

The authorities continue to confiscate cannabis in an effort to curb supply. The figures in terms of total weight of the confiscations over 10 years are shown below. The amount shows the total weight of herbal, resinous and liquid cannabis, excluding plants, seized by Customs and Excise, the police and other authorities in the UK.

Weight of cannabis seized (tonnes)30324154228491011501107174

The forms in which confiscated cannabis comes are far from equally prevalent. The table below shows how cannabis resin was the domineering form of confiscated cannabis in 2000, with approximately a third of confiscations by weight involving herbal cannabis, and relatively negligable amounts of cannabis liquid (e.g. hash oil) were found.

Amount seized (tonnes)25.47348.1910.004

The enforcement of cannabis laws creates a large burden on both police time and money. In 1999 figures showed that straightforward caution takes on average 3 hours of police time. A typical arrest takes 5 hours of police time to process and costs £10,000 to bring to court. The average fine levied on offender in court was just £46.


The statistics found here came from publications in the statistics section of our research library. The majority came from the annually published 'Drug Seizure and Offender Statistics' series. Other useful sources are the Annual Report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drugs addiction and associated Drugscope submissions. Frequently various news articles can also give interesting statistics.

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