By Ch Insp Steven Duncan, local police commander

IN RELATION to Marie Sharp’s Courier column last week, I feel her comments do the local people of East Lothian and the police officers working in the area something of a disservice.

My view is East Lothian residents are far from turning a blind eye to cannabis misuse. In our most recent ‘Your View Counts’ survey, ‘drugs’ again features as a key concern for those living in the Lothian and Borders area.

Through local engagement at community councils, community and police partnership meetings and by monitoring local complaints, multi-agency plans are in place in Musselburgh, Prestonpans, Tranent and Haddington specific to targeting drug misuse at locations that have been highlighted to us. Every day I am heartened by the information and intelligence that is reported to us in respect of local drug misuse.

I have previously appealed to East Lothian residents to keep that information coming, to give us every chance of taking action against those that blight our communities with drugs.

In Miss Sharp’s column, she states she “would question whether [the police] would consider it worth their while to take any action” if they came across someone smoking cannabis. In 2016/17, officers from Police Scotland recorded over 16,000 crimes for “possession” offences in respect of herbal cannabis and cannabis resin alone. Even in the last couple of days, I am aware of officers seizing cannabis from people in Musselburgh and North Berwick through routine vehicle stops and person searches.

I would also direct Miss Sharp to an article she wrote on April 10 this year which reads: “Cannabis plants with a value of around £25,000 have been seized from a house in Musselburgh after police stopped a man in his car.” Officers observed a male they believed was smoking what they thought might be cannabis. They took action regarding this offence, which led to that person’s house being searched and a terrific recovery being made.

And that is why we do take action in respect of cannabis misuse. Cannabis, and its rather unique smell, gives the police more cause and reason to interact with people than any other drug, which can then sometimes lead to warrant arrests, weapon recoveries, other drugs and intelligence.

I agree with Miss Sharp that overall public opinion on cannabis misuse is varied. But I do not believe that the residents of East Lothian, and certainly not the officers under my command, are turning a blind ey