Sadiq Khan urged to block support for pilot scheme which MPs claim decriminalises cannabis


Fifteen Tory MPs have called on Sadiq Khan to block any City Hall support for a pilot scheme which they claim would effectively decriminalise cannabis, the Evening Standard can reveal.

The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime has been asked by Lewisham council to give financial support to a trial in three south London boroughs.

This trial would seek to “divert” 18 to 24-year-olds caught with cannabis in Greenwich, Lewisham and Bexley away from the criminal justice system and instead offer them counselling or re-education.

But the MPs, including former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith as well as serving government ministers Greg Hands and Chris Philp, say the scheme would effectively decriminalise recreational drug use in the three boroughs.

Mr Khan told the Standard that no final decision on funding had been taken but said he was “in favour of diversionary policies”.

In the letter to Mr Khan, the MPs write: “It is not your job to pick and choose which laws the Metropolitan Police will enforce in the capital. On the contrary, it is your job to tackle the recreational drug use that fuels violence in London.

“Your plan to pilot a scheme in Greenwich, Lewisham and Bexley that will let 18 to 24-year-olds off for possessing a small amount of cannabis sends the wrong message to young Londoners.

“By trialling a scheme that effectively decriminalises cannabis, you risk inflaming violence in London by funnelling recreational drug users’ cash into county line gangs and violent criminals.”

The letter has also been signed by Gareth Bacon, Nickie Aiken, Bob Blackman, Elliot Colburn, Sir David Evennett, Mike Freer, Stephen Hammond, Greg Hands, Sir Bob Neill, Andrew Rosindell, David Simmonds and Theresa Villiers.

Mr Bacon, MP for Orpington, who organised the letter, said: "It is profoundly concerning that City Hall is looking at ways to send signals that drug users will be let off the hook instead of focusing stamping out recreational use which helps drive violent crime in London.

"No London borough wants to be used as a guinea pig for Sadiq Khan’s cannabis experiment.”

The mayor does not have the power to decriminalise cannabis.

But as far back as 2019, Mr Khan made clear his interest in having an “evidence-based conversation” on drug laws and enforcement.

In his 2021 mayoral manifesto, he proposed establishing a London Drug Commission of independent experts tow examine the effectiveness of our drugs laws, with a particular focus on cannabis.

However, little seems to have happened since the May election.

City Hall said the commission would not look at the classification of Class A drugs which Mr Khan believes must remain illegal.

Mr Khan said he had yet to receive a recommendation from MOPAC about whether or not to fund the cannabis pilot.

“As and when it comes to me, I’ll look into it, “ he said on Tuesday.

“But I am in favour of diversionary policies. I don’t think it’s possible to arrest ourselves out of many things. That is one of the reasons why we are investing so much into preventative measures, in relation to violent crime. Let’s wait and see what the recommendation is.

“In relation to the London Drugs Commission, there is a piece of work being undertaken by City Hall to [draw up] terms of reference.

“I’m quite clear that this is not about decriminalising drugs. This is about looking into a piece of work with a recommendation to look at lessons learned from overseas.

“We are not Parliament. We can’t change the law. What we can do, though, is do a serious piece of work that may influence what the laws are going forward.”