The amount of cannabis seized by UK border patrol officers has shot up by 142% in the past year, according to new official figures.

The number of overall drug seizures has fallen to its lowest level since 2004, but the amount of herbal cannabis confiscated rose from 11,861 kilos to 28,666 kilos. Meanwhile, the amount of cannabis resin seized rose 33%, as officers were forced to make more than 100,000 seizures in 2017/18, the Home Office reported. It adds further fuel to claims that the cash-strapped British government is wasting time and energy policing an industry that it could be regulating and taxing.

Earlier this month it took the first tentative steps towards rolling out a legal medicinal marijuana industry. Thousands of specialist doctors are now empowered to prescribe cannabis to patients suffering from various ailments. However, furious critics – including MPs, charity workers, and parents of sick children – have attacked the medical bodies that provided the prescription guidelines for the National Health Service, claiming they have made it so difficult for doctors to prescribe marijuana that it remains out of reach for patients.

Many police forces across the UK say they have effectively decriminalized cannabis and the number of people prosecuted for possession is falling year-on-year. That has seemingly encouraged dealers to attempt to bring in increasing amounts of marijuana to flood the black market, keeping the UK Border Force officers on their toes throughout the year.

Influential politicians like former Conservative Party leader William Hague have called for cannabis to be legalized for recreational use, arguing that the war against it has been “comprehensively and irreversibly lost”. The pleas have thus far fallen upon deaf ears, but the government’s thawing attitude is highlighted by its decision to legalize medicinal cannabis.

That followed an outcry over the pain suffered by children like Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley, who were in agony because their parents could not legally source the cannabis they needed to relieve their epileptic symptoms. These parents are back on the lobbying trail now as they say the new, strict guidelines laid down by the NHS would not allow them to secure marijuana for their children, forcing them to raise funds and go abroad for treatment or turn to the black market.

If they succeed in relaxing the guidelines for doctors, the next step would be to push for a legal recreational cannabis market in Britain. That would free up the border patrol teams to hunt out dangerous substances rather than wasting their time on cannabis, and it would boost the Treasury’s coffers as it seeks to plug holes in its funding of the beleaguered NHS and shore up other struggling public services.