By Roland Sebestyén
A pilot scheme could lead to the decriminalisation of the use and possession of cannabis in a ground-breaking move to fulfil Mayor Sadiq Khan’s re-election pledge.
According to a leaked proposal published in the Telegraph, cannabis consumption and possession will be decriminalised in three London boroughs – Lewisham, Bexley and Greenwich – with the potential of eventually being extended to the whole of the city.
The policy proposed by Sadiq Khan would aim to stop the demonisation and prosecution of cannabis users.
In addition, drug users found in possession of cannabis and other Class B drugs –ketamine or amphetamines, for example – will be offered counselling or awareness courses instead of facing arrest, and in many cases, prosecution.
The scheme could be announced this month with the Mayor of Lewisham, Damien Egan, overviewing the programme.
Mr Khan has previously presented criticism of how Class B drugs are policed in the capital city.
As part of his ambitious manifesto in his re-election campaign in early 2021, he pledged to set up an independent drug commission “to assess the potential health, economic and criminal justice effects” should cannabis be decriminalised in London.
In an interview only days before the elections, Mr Khan said he used to oppose cannabis decriminalisation but then he changed his mind.
He said: “I’ve seen too many young people criminalised for possessing a little bit of cannabis.
“I’ve [also] seen some of the health consequences of cannabis and its impact in relation to violent crime of the drug industry.
“I’m going to set up a London Drug’s Commission after the election which will have experts from a number of industries.
“I want them to go and look what’s happened overseas where they have decriminalised cannabis and then come and present me what their recommendations are.”
As we reported last year, while the Independent Office for Police Conduct recommended that police officers should stop carrying out stop and search measures based on smelling cannabis, in reality, the measures are still in full swing across the country.
Mr Khan’s proposal would, in essence, divide the city (and maybe the whole country) but it could be the first move in a long fight against the unjustified and often racist practice of stop-and-search in London.