By Roland Sebestyén
A new poll found that the vast majority of Londoners supported the plans to decriminalise cannabis in boroughs to tackle drug use and reoffending among young people.
YouGov reports that some 63% of residents support the pilot scheme – backed by London Mayor Sadiq Khan – to decriminalise cannabis possession and use in three London boroughs for people aged between 18 and 24.
If the scheme were to go ahead, those found in possession of cannabis wouldn’t face criminal prosecution; instead, they would be referred to therapy and education services.
The most recent YouGov survey reveals that more than six in ten people in London would support the scheme (63%, including 24 who “strongly support” it), while only 19% would oppose it.
According to the survey, even Tory voters would support the scheme (55%) while the support is immense among Labour voters (69%).
Yesterday, Damian Egan, the Mayor of Lewisham, one of the boroughs taking part in Sadiq Khan’s proposed scheme, told the Evening Standard that he supports the initiative for the sake of young Londoners.
He said: “For a young person in Lewisham it is hard enough to find a job that’s secure and make sure you can pay bills.
“Doing that with a criminal record makes it even more difficult.
“Under a diversion scheme, we would look to try and capture some of the young people who are going down the route of criminal activity and give them the treatment they need. I want to see these young people going on to get jobs, pay their taxes and lead a more fulfilling life.”
The mayor’s office and cannabis advocates claimed that the scheme is not about decriminalising drug use but offering a different approach (diversion), but Tory MPs called the Sadiq Khan to abandon the scheme.
Mr Khan has refused to do so and the scheme will probably be introduced soon.
In a statement issued by Mr Khan’s team, a spokesperson said: “This limited trial, which is still in development and has yet to be approved by City Hall, would involve three of London’s 32 boroughs and would only apply to 18-24-year-olds found in possession of a small amount of cannabis. It would not apply to any other drug.
“The idea of the scheme, which is already used by other police forces across the country, would be to divert young people who are found with a small amount of cannabis away from the criminal justice system and instead provide help and support. This has been shown to reduce reoffending.
“Reducing crime is the Mayor’s top priority and he will continue to explore and implement the most effective solutions to help to divert young people away from drug use and crime for good.”