Sadiq Khan: Time for cannabis rethink to cut violent crime – Evening Standard


Sadiq Khan today called for a rethink on cannabis laws and policing amid concern about the links between drugs and violent crime.

The Mayor softened his stance on the class B drug by calling for an “evidence-based conversation” about legislation and enforcement.

He said the Evening Standard’s investigation into reforming the laws on cannabis had shown how attitudes were changing. It found that 63 per cent of Londoners back its legalisation for adult recreational use.

Mr Khan, who last year said he was opposed to relaxing the rules on recreational use, told the Standard: “The time is right for our society to have an evidence-based conversation about cannabis — about the law, how it is enforced, and how we support those struggling with addiction. 

“It goes without saying that I will continue to support the police to enforce the law as it stands, but all Londoners will benefit if we can start a conversation that leads to a reduction in violent crime.”

The number of offences recorded by the Metropolitan Police for cannabis possession has been declining every year to 28,358 in 2017-18, and to 672 in the same year for possession with intent to supply. UK law on cannabis provides for prison sentences of up to five years for possession and up to 14 years for supply and production.

Recreational use is legal in Canada, Uruguay and in 11 US states, and is decriminalised in a further 15. 

Last week a report from MPs on the Commons health committee called for a government consultation on decriminalising drug possession for personal use.

It said there had been a fall in drug use overall, especially among young adults, and that cannabis use was falling while cocaine use was rising. The vast majority of drug deaths involve opiates.

Met commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has said that cannabis possession is “not the highest priority crime”. The Met uses a “three strikes” rule of a warning, then a fine, with arrest a last resort.

Mr Khan, who has admitted smoking cannabis during a trip to Amsterdam “a long, long time ago”, said there was a “clear link” between the rise in the market for drugs and the rise in violent crime across the UK.

A City Hall report last month revealed that more than 4,000 Londoners, some as young as 11, had been drawn into “county lines” drug-dealing. The National Crime Agency says heroin and crack cocaine are the most common drugs supplied by county lines gangs. 

Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita has called for cannabis to be legalised. Mr Khan’s move could be seen as a way to dissuade liberal-minded Londoners from voting for her in next May’s mayoral elections.

Mr Khan said he strongly supported calls to make cannabis available for medicinal use and said the Government needed to move much quicker to relax the “overly strict laws” in this area. He added: “As the Evening Standard’s campaign on this issue has demonstrated, attitudes are slowly but surely changing in Britain.”

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