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Sadiq Khan ‘could back cannabis decriminalisation in London boroughs’

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 04/01/2022 Josh Salisbury and Rachael Burford
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (PA) - PA Wire © PA Wire

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (PA)

- PA Wire

Sadiq Khan could back decriminalising cannabis in certain London boroughs under a new pilot scheme, according to reports.

The move could see those aged 18 to 24 found with “small” amounts of cannabis in Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley offered speeding course-style classes or counselling instead of arrest.

The pilot could be announced this month, and is being spearheaded by Damien Egan, the mayor of Lewisham, the Telegraph reports.

The project could then be funded by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC).

But a City Hall spokesperson denied that the proposed move would amount to decriminalisation, which the Mayor does not have legislative powers to do.

The Government said on Tuesday that it has “no intention to decriminalise drugs in any way”.

Similar pre-custody “diversion schemes” for drug users have worked successfully elsewhere, including in Thames Valley.

While a similar intervention scheme for women offenders to divert them away from prison has taken place in London, this would reportedly be the first such drugs diversion scheme in the capital.

City Hall said the scheme was a “limited trial” and “still in development and simply means that 18 to 24 year olds found with small amounts of cannabis would be diverted to receive help which is shown to reduce offending”.

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“This is a model used by other forces around the country and would not apply to any other drug,” City Hall said.

A spokesman added that the Mayor’s office was “actively involved in discussions around this scheme”.

He said that Mr Khan believed in “deterrence and early intervention” and in “investigating various ways in which young people can be diverted away from low-level drug use”.

“We know that we’ll never be able to simply arrest our way out of the problem, which is why we continue to work on schemes that provide young people with support and education, rather than simply putting them through the criminal justice system – with the aim of diverting them away from drug use and crime for good,” he said.

The Government last month pledged a crackdown on illegal drug use, with prime minister Boris Johnson calling drugs “a scourge on our society”.

The prime minister’s spokesman said he was not aware of any official announcement from the Mayor’s office or published proposal that would see drugs some drugs decriminalised in the capital.

He added: “We have said many times that illegal drugs destroy lives and fuel violence.

“We have absolutely no intention of decriminalising dangerous and harmful substances for recreational use.

“Decriminalisation would leave organised criminals in control while risking an increase in drug use, which drives crime and violence, which blights our streets and we made that clear in our drug strategy.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also said he does not believe legalising drugs should be pursued in England.

During his last election campaign, Mr Khan pledged a London Drug Commission of independent experts to examine the effectiveness of cannabis drug laws.

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