THE tough new stance taken by Sheffield judges against those growing cannabis has been welcomed by South Yorkshire Police.
Detectives today warned those growing cannabis - even if for their own use - would be caught and could face lengthy jail terms.
The warning came after a judge at Sheffield Crown Court jailed 33 cannabis growers and dished out community punishments, suspended jail terms or fines to a further 13 after a series of test cases in the Court of Appeal clarified sentencing for the offence.
Acting detective chief inspector Jade Brice, from South Yorkshire Police, said: “My message to anyone growing cannabis is this - we will catch you and if the level of cultivation is deemed by the court to be consistent with supplying, then you will be punished and that might include imprisonment.
“Clearly the courts and the judges are taking this very seriously and this should act as a big deterrent.”
Cannabis was downgraded from Class B to Class C in January 2004. It was reclassified Class B in 2009 after scientific research and concerns about its detrimental impact on mental health.
In 2011, a study by the Association of Chief Police Officers found South Yorkshire had the highest ratio of cannabis factories per 100,000 residents.
Acting DCI Brice said the high number of drugs factories was due to the force taking a hard line and investing time and resources into smashing drug networks.
He said: “It is anecdotal, but I am convinced this is more about the proactive action that we take. I don’t think we stand out in the crowd, I think it is because of the work that we are doing.”
He said cannabis growers were often tenants reported by landlords seeing higher energy bills than normal.
Others were caught after being reported to Crimestoppers by neighbours.