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5 Jan, 2022 11:14

Starmer and Johnson united against mayor’s relaxation of drug policy

Sadiq Khan is set to replace detention with counseling for youths caught with small amounts of cannabis
Starmer and Johnson united against mayor’s relaxation of drug policy

London’s mayor has made plans to introduce a pilot program which will de-facto decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis among youths. The project has already faced opposition from the prime minister and Labour leader.

On Tuesday, the Telegraph reported that, under the new proposals, under-25s caught with the drug in some London boroughs would be given speeding-course-style classes rather than being arrested.

The pilot scheme being developed by the mayor would see police ordered not to arrest young people caught with cannabis. According to The Times, drug advocacy group Volteface recommended that it apply to all class B drugs, including speed and ketamine, but Khan's office said it would only apply to cannabis.

Officers would instead return the offenders back to their homes instead of taking them into police custody. The Telegraph understands that the mayor plans to implement his project in the Southeast boroughs of Lewisham, Bexley and Greenwich.

The scheme would need a sign-off from the mayor's office for policing and crime before being implemented.

“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,” a spokesperson for the mayor’s office told The Guardian. 

However, the pilot scheme has been slammed by Downing Street and the Labour leader Keir Starmer. Boris Johnson’s spokesman reiterated that the government has no plans to decriminalize dangerous narcotics, noting that said illegal drugs “destroy lives and fuel violence.”

“Decriminalization would leave organized criminals in control, while risking an increase in drug use, which drives crime and violence, which blights our streets,” the spokesman added.

Starmer said he was not in favor of changing drugs policy and would not endorse the Labour mayor’s proposal.

Khan's administration has unsuccessfully sought to solve the capital's drugs problem since he took over from Johnson in 2016.

The mayor's office says that illegal drug trade costs society £19 billion (nearly $26bn) per year. Some 41,900 people were charged with drug-related offenses last year in England and Wales.

City Hall noted that the scheme had also not received final approval for funding and added that the mayor does not have the power to decriminalize cannabis. Possession of the drug is illegal, but police are allowed to deploy out-of-court disposals such as cautions, under current legalisation.