Germany considers the legalisation of recreational cannabis
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Sir Keir, the Labour leader and former Director of Public Prosecutions, said that he had not seen the details of the proposals, but that he was “very clear” that he was “not in favour of us changing the law or decriminalisation”. Mr Khan, the Labour London Mayor, had been hoping to change police behaviour around young people to heal a growing racial divide in the capital.
According to reports today (Tuesday), three London boroughs – Lewisham, Bexley and Greenwich – are to be a pilot for the scheme, expected to launch later this year.
Under the plans, first reported by the Telegraph, police officers would be told not to arrest those aged 18 to 24 caught with recreational amounts of cannabis, ketamine or speed.
Instead, they would be offered classes or counselling.
It follows a successful model in the Thames Valley, which last year won a national award.
The Mayor’s office said it was misleading to suggest that Mr Khan was decriminalising Class B drugs in London.
The Mayor’s spokesperson told Sky News that Mr Khan “firmly believes that drug use, and its related crimes, are preventable and not inevitable”.
They added: “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.”
The plans, which are still in development, would only apply to young adults found with “a small amount of cannabis” and “would not apply to any other drug”.
The move would set Mr Khan on a direct collision course with the Government and Labour leadership, which have both called for tougher action on drug users.
Asked about the report in the Telegraph, Sir Keir, himself a London MP, said: “On the drugs legislation, I’ve said a number of times and I will say again: I’m not in favour of us changing the law or decriminalisation. I’m very clear about that.
“I haven’t seen the detail of the proposals that you’ve reported on. As I understand it they are early measures, they are some sort of pilot.
“Obviously we’ll look at those, but I’m very clear that we’re not in favour of changing the drugs laws.”
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The Prime Minister’s spokesperson said: “I wouldn’t comment on speculation but, as we’ve said many times, 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.”
The Mayor’s spokesperson stressed that the “limited trial” was “still in development and has yet to be approved by City Hall”.
They added: “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.”
Last March, the Guardian reported that the Metropolitan Police was beginning research to examine how effective stop and search measures were in tackling violence in London.
The move was part of plans drawn up by the Mayor to ease race relations, as black people were found more likely to be stopped by police than white.
In 2019, the Met Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said she personally believed that there would be “all kinds of problems” if cannabis were to be legalised “immediately”.
She added that she “accepts” there was a lot of cannabis use in London, and that people in possession of recreational amounts would not be “locked up” for having it.
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