Cannabis to be 'decriminalised' in London pilot by Sadiq Khan

4 January 2022, 11:38 | Updated: 4 January 2022, 15:30

Sadiq Khan is reportedly planning to decriminalise drugs in London.
Sadiq Khan is reportedly planning to decriminalise drugs in London. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

Police will not pursue charges for cannabis in some parts of London as part of a pilot scheme, with plans to end the prosecution of young people caught with cannabis.

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Mr Khan's scheme will allow under-25s caught with small amounts of cannabis to be offered awareness classes or counselling and avoid arrest.

His pilot scheme will reportedly include the London boroughs of Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley, and is expected to be announced later this month.

Similar trials have already been undertaken in Somerset, Durham and the West Midlands, with police officers told not to arrest young people caught with cannabis.

Although carrying the drugs would technically remain illegal, the Metropolitan Police is understood to have agreed that officers will not pursue drug charges against people caught in the three boroughs in south London participating in the scheme.

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Instead, under a process known as “diversion”, young people will instead be offered a course to educate them on the dangers of drug use, similar to that offered to motorists who have been caught speeding.

Youth workers, rather than the police, will lead the rehabilitation process, with under-25s also offered counselling if necessary.

The results of this limited pilot would be subject to a robust evaluation prior to any further roll-out.

Read more: PM rebuffs Sadiq Khan's plans to look into legalising cannabis in London

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London 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.”

During his last election campaign, Mr Khan pledged to set up a London Drugs Commission to review whether cannabis possession should be decriminalised.

Back in December, Boris Johnson outlined his 10-year drug strategy, pledging to break up 2,000 "county lines" drugs gangs in a £300 million drive to rid the country's streets of illegal narcotics.

The 10-year plan for England and Wales includes more drug testing on arrest, with police encouraged to direct individuals who test positive towards treatment or other relevant options.

Under the plans, judges will be given the power to order drugs tests on offenders serving community sentences for drugs-related crimes, with the prospect of jail if they test positive.