A Tory AM has faced a fierce backlash after his “ill-informed” attack on a police boss for his views on cannabis use.
Clwyd West AM Darren Millar unleashed a firestorm of criticism on Twitter after blasting North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones during a debate in the Senedd about the benefits of medicinal cannabis.
Critics rounded on Mr Millar for his “cheap shot” and “point scoring” on the issue.
Mr Millar had criticised Mr Jones for visiting cannabis clubs, including one in London in October.
He claimed the commissioner, a former police inspector, had been irresponsible in visiting the clubs and that he was sending mixed messages to young people, blurring the lines between what is legal and what is criminal activity.
Angry people from across the UK took to social media to condemn Mr Millar’s attack on the commissioner.
Among them was John George, from London, who said: “It’s always a real shame when you hear those in a position of influence talk about cannabis in this ill-informed and cartoonist way.
“I implore you to please investigate more on the subject. We need some real sense here. Demonising it is more than silly, it’s dangerous.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Steve Preddy, from Newport, who said: “You don’t believe in evidence-based policy-making, I take it?”
The Transform Drugs Policy Foundation added: “A PCC who – seeing the failed status quo – then explores policy options proven to reduce organised crime, street dealing, & the criminalisation/alienation of young people, as well as protecting the health & wellbeing of people who use cannabis, should be applauded, not condemned.
“Cannabis Social Clubs are a pragmatic part of how we should regulate cannabis use and supply.
“The criminal justice system is a worse than useless way to send public health messages. Claiming differently is the last resort of prohibitionists who’ve lost the debate on the evidence
“Drug policy and law is failing and counterproductive. It needs reform. We should welcome informed debate on alternatives – not attempt to stifle it.”
Tecwyn Vaughan Jones, from Colwyn Bay, said: “North Wales should be proud of a PCC who actually engages and is passionate about the wellbeing of the people he serves…if only other elected representatives had the same passion!! Thank you Arfon Jones and may you serve North Wales for a long time to come as PCC.”
Denbighshire County Councillor Huw Williams said: “Time to legalise cannabis Gentleman would you agree?”
Mr Jones accused the AM of “living in the dark ages”.
The commissioner said: “Not for the first time, Darren Millar is behind the times.
“My stance on drugs policy is a matter of record and was part of my manifesto when I was elected as North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner with a significant majority in 2016.
“I think he will find that the debate on drugs generally and cannabis in particular has moved on with a consequent shift in public opinion.
“A number of newspaper polls have shown a clear majority of people share my views on drugs policy.
“A number of other police and crime commissioners across the UK share my views in relation to this issue.
“Among them is Hardyal Dhindsa, my counterpart in Derbyshire who is also the portfolio lead for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners on alcohol and substance abuse.
“His visits to cannabis clubs and his subsequent appearance on the Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC One attracted widespread positive support for cannabis clubs which has been highlighted in the national media.
“It is interesting, but no surprise to me, that it is Darren Millar who has been pilloried on social media for his unenlightened opinion on this matter.
“What he should realise is that children are far more at risk from cannabis supplied by a criminal black market who don’t care how old a child is compared to an age-regulated recreational market as they have in Canada, Uruguay and 10 US states.
“Children are not allowed in social cannabis clubs which have strict membership rules.
“People who take cannabis do not cause harm to others in contrast to the problems caused by alcohol which causes much greater damage to individuals and society in general.”