27th January 2022
By Roland Sebestyén

The Mayor of Lewisham believes the proposed pilot scheme to decriminalise cannabis possession in three London boroughs could help to fix a “broken system” and “create a safer city.”

Damien 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.

Mr Egan said the current “War on Drugs” approach only assists the organised criminal gangs while punishing the young across the country.

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.”

Sadiq Khan’s proposal would essentially decriminalise the possession of cannabis for those aged between 18 and 24. However, the scheme will currently only apply to three London boroughs – Lewisham, Bexley and Greenwich.

The scheme will aim to stop the demonisation and prosecution of cannabis users and introduce a different approach; diversion.

This means that anyone under 25 caught with the substance, will not face criminal prosecution; instead, they will be referred to “a programme of drug awareness sessions.”

The scheme could be announced in January, maybe early February, with the above-mentioned Mayor of Lewisham, Damien Egan, overviewing the programme.

While Londoners are said to back the scheme, a number of senior politicians on both sides have revealed their opposition; one of them was the Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, who is firmly against changing the drug laws and would only support Mr Khan’s scheme when all the data were to be made available.

Mr Egan added: “Some politicians weren’t looking at the facts. There were some really ill-informed, closed-minded views because people had heard the word drugs or cannabis. I am asking people to have an open mind and follow the evidence.”

“When you take the time to talk through what we’re doing, most people I speak to think it’s a common-sense approach.

“We have had a few critical emails from people in the borough, but I can count them on one hand.”

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