Downing Street has expressed concern over moves to end the prosecution of young people caught with cannabis in some London boroughs, under a pilot scheme being developed by Sadiq Khan.
The Mayor of London is understood to be developing a plan based on a successful model from Thames Valley police that would offer classes or counselling, rather than arrest, to under-25s caught with small quantities of cannabis.
Khan’s office said the plans for three boroughs to trial the approach were still in development and that they did not have the powers to fully decriminalise any drugs. The pilot is yet to receive approval from the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (Mopac).
Both Downing Street and the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, said they did not endorse any further decriminalisation of drugs. Boris Johnson’s spokesman said illegal drugs “destroy lives and fuel violence”.
The spokesman said: “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.”
Starmer said of the plans, first reported by the Telegraph, that he would not endorse any changes to the law. “I’m not in favour of us changing the law or decriminalisation. I’m very clear about that,” he said. He added he would “look at” the pilot Khan was proposing, “but I’m very clear that we’re not in favour of changing the drugs laws.”
A spokesman 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 to 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.