Liberal Democrat London Mayor candidate Siobhan Benita has repeated her call for “a sensible conversation about drugs reform” as part of a strategy for reducing criminal violence in London, stressing her view that “there is a clear link between the likelihood of a young person getting pulled into serious violence, either as a victim or a perpetrator of that serious violence and their exposure to the illegal drugs market”.
Interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning Benita, who believes cannabis should be legalised as part of an overall reform of drugs policy, said her stance is informed by her recent membership of an all-party youth violence commission and would help to undermine “an illegal drugs market in London that is hugely powerful, hugely wealthy, hugely violent”.
Responding to the programme presenter’s challenge that a large majority of cannabis-users in Canada continue to buy the drug from illegal traders despite legalisation there, Benita said the problem had been that the legal product had been priced too high “You can use the pricing of a legalised market to encourage better behaviour,” she said, adding that she would wish to “encourage people who are going to take cannabis – and we have to accept that – to take lower potency strains of it”.
She also emphasised providing more things for young people to do in the period straight after school and starting a “school-inclusion programme” to prevent young people dropping out of mainstream education because if they do so “they are far more likely to get involved in serious violence as well”. These proposals from further parts of her five-point plan for addressing violent crime,
Benita was also asked about her letter to the current Mayor, Sadiq Khan, urging him to consider installing anti-bacteria gel dispensers or hand sanitisers at London Underground stations to help combat the spread of coronavirus. “We’ve got nearly two million people that travel on the Tube network in London every day, that’s about five million actual journeys taken every day, so I think we should be considering all options,” she said. “I think people are looking for a bit of reassurance and a bit of guidance”.
She said Transport for London should be providing more advice to Londoners about avoiding contracting the virus on the Tube. The chief medical officer has said it is possible to pick it up from poles and hand holds in the carriages. Asked if she knew if there are sufficient supplies of anti-bacterial gel she said, “We’ve looking into the initial cost of it, this is feasible” and that “it is obviously something we want want to connect up with the NHS, because they would be looking at this as well.”
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