Police have been accused of handing out “slap on the wrist” punishments to cannabis smokers.
Only 20,000 people (27 per cent) caught with the drug last year went to court against 53,000 who got warnings, cautions and other lesser penalties.
Some English and Welsh police forces had a charge rate of less than 20 per cent in 2018-19.
Cleveland Police were the toughest, charging more than half of users.
The Centre for Crime Prevention said cannabis hurts physical and mental health but “so many people getting let off with a slap on the wrist” sends a harmful message that smoking it is OK.
However, a spokesman for the National Police Chiefs Council insisted: “There is strong evidence to suggest that recommending minor offenders for early intervention treatment instead of pursuing convictions can prevent re-offending.”