IT was always going to be a gamble for Durham's Police and Crime Commissioner, Ron Hogg, to suggest a different approach to tackling drug crime.

By confirming to The Northern Echo that the Durham force would no longer proactively pursue small-scale cannabis users, he was always likely to stir up controversy.

"Police's latest potty idea," was the headline on one national newspaper's website today.

But is it really potty, or is it a long overdue injection of realism into the perennial debate about how to tackle drugs in this country? Call us potty too but we actually believe it is the latter.

Lots of organisations – councils, health authorities, emergency services and newspaper companies included – have to identify priorities and make the best use of limited resources. So do the taxpayers of Durham want their police officers to focus on bigger crimes, which have the biggest impact on communities? Of course they do.

We want our police forces to go on pursuing the parasites who get rich through large-scale drugs production and there is nothing in what Mr Hogg has said which suggests that will be relaxed in any way.

But the default position for low-level users will no longer be prosecution. Instead they will have the chance to enter into the force's Checkpoint programme, which requires them to enter into a contract to avoid a criminal record. A contractual condition for drug possession would be a requirement to attend drug treatment sessions.

It's not as if the long-established approach to tackling drug crime has been an enormous success so why not at least try something new – something more constructive, educational and which will, hopefully, produce a more positive result than the revolving door or drugs misuse?

One of the criticisms of the new police and crime commissioners has been that they are too anonymous. We should, therefore, at least give Durham's commissioner, Ron Hogg, credit for spearheading a much-needed debate about drugs in this country.