While police will still target large-scale cannabis growers, “low-level” offenders will instead be given the opportunity to take part in Durham Police’s Checkpoint programme, which aims to “reduce the number of victims of crime by reducing re-offending”.

As America’s police force continues to crack skulls and incarcerate otherwise productive members of society for simply smoking weed, Durham crime commissioner Ron Hogg has cultivated a set of new controversial guidelines mandating that police funds no longer be wasted on low-level home cultivation.

A police chief who said his force is not prioritising cannabis users who grow the drug for their own consumption has been roundly criticised by MPs, the press, campaigners and doctors. In low level cases we say it is better to work with them and put them in a position where they can recover.

‘By and large we are saying it is not the top of our list to go out and try to pick up people smoking joints on street corners but if it’s blatant or we get complaints, officers will act.

“It is unlikely a case like that would be brought before a court”.

Production and supply of cannabis is illegal in the UK and can carry a prison sentence of up to 14 years, although sentencing is usually lenient in practice.

The Times said in its editorial that changing the law on drugs should be a matter for Parliament, not “eased through the back door by police”.

The “soft” approach is being trialed by Durham Police, who are letting suppliers of cannabis get away with warnings or cautions despite growing tens of thousands of pounds of the drug.

The police tsar stressed drugs cause enormous harm to communities, and said the question was “how we tackle them”.

The Daily Mail also criticised Hogg’s position in an editorial, highlighting that: “Successive governments have concluded that cannabis is extremely hazardous to health and that growing, using, or dealing it should remain illegal”.

While supporters of the decriminalization and legalization of cannabis point to the drug’s health benefits, detractors argue it has been linked to mental health conditions such as psychosis and schizophrenia.