POLICE have pledged to crack down on the supply, possession and use of the Class B drug cannabis in Wiltshire despite concerns over officers' powers to stop and search suspects.

Young recruits at the College of Policing were told not to use the smell of cannabis alone as the sole reason to use their powers to stop and search suspects following racism allegations.

In 2017, new guidance was issued after a report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary found that large numbers of searches were being carried out solely because police could smell cannabis.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct said in September that the smell of cannabis on a suspect was not enough by itself to justify a stop and search.

The ruling followed a case involving an officer stopping Emmanuel Arthur, the founder of Black Cyclists Network, in London in November last year.

The ruling sparked uproar among rank-and-file officers, who believed the move would virtually decriminalise cannabis and hamper them as they try to crack down on drug dealers.

But town councillors in Trowbridge have been assured that police will take action if they have sufficient grounds to suspect that drug offences are being committed.

Sgt Leighton Williams, of Trowbridge Police, said: “Cannabis still remains a Class B drug and as such will be dealt with.

"There is a great concern for very young in service police officers to use our powers under stop and search.

"In fact probably 12 months ago, the rhetoric coming from the college was the smell of cannabis alone is not enough grounds to stop and search an individual.

“I think now, with some feedback from more senior police officers and more experienced police officers, that message is being changed.

“There is a drive to ensure that stop and search is used accurately and safely so not to generate any complaints around targeting of certain age groups etc."

Sgt Williams was commenting after Cllr Andrew Bryant told Tuesday’s full council meeting of Trowbridge Town Council that some town centre streets stank of weed from users openly smoking cannabis.

Cllr Bryant said: "Can you tell us what is the police response to weed. Any time I go into town, the town stinks of weed."

“I can walk past probably almost every other group of people gathering, not just young people, but there are certain groups that seem to religiously smoke the weed and they seem to be getting away with it.

“My wife was just walking down from the small car park by the old post office and postal box and walked past a car that absolutely stank of weed and at the same time she walked past a police officer was walking past in uniform and made no attempt whatsoever to investigate it.

“Are the police actively investigating the weed or are they just going out on big-time drug dealers?”

Sgt Williams responded: "Cannabis is dealt with on a street level by the neighbourhoods team and by the response teams."

He said that bigger players, those who deal and supply harder Class A drugs, were dealt with by colleagues in Operation Fortitude.

He added: “That being said, those that are on the higher end of the supply of cannabis scale are targeted, who are organised criminal gangs, and they are actively sought so at every level of criminality from straight forward possession to the importation and dealing of cannabis is dealt with productively and proactively.”

Cllr Byrant said: “That was very clear and very honest and I totally appreciate the rock and a hard place that police are in.”