Police would be told to spend less time acting against cannabis consumption in the capital under a Green London Mayor, the party’s candidate Sian Berry has announced.
The pledge, to be included in Berry’s forthcoming manifesto, is designed to free up Met resources for tackling more serious offending and is presented as a substantial first step towards a radically new “public health approach” to drug use in London.
Berry’s plan to “deprioritise” the policing of cannabis would include immediate ending of the use of stop-and-search solely on the grounds of suspected cannabis possession, a tactic the Met deployed more extensively during the first Covid-19 lockdown last spring, in particular against black male Londoners.
Calling for an end to “fifty failing years of the ‘war on drugs’,” Berry said “No credible candidate for Mayor could look at the data and claim that “prohibition and an enforcement-based” approach has worked. “All the evidence points to a public health approach being the safest, most compassionate and most effective way of reducing the harm caused by drug use.”
Berry’s initiative takes its cue from the national policy of the Green Party, of which she is co-leader, as well as being a current member of the London Assembly, to which she is seeking re-election as well as running for Mayor.
The Greens want to decriminalise all illegal drugs and have them regulated by law, with the aim of taking their production and supply out of the hands of criminals.
As Mayor, Berry would not be able to introduce that policy solely within London, but in her de facto role as the capital’s police and crime commissioner she would be able to set the Met’s priorities through the four-year police and crime plan all Mayors must produce through the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.
Further manifesto pledges Berry has promised include working with the health sector and charities to provide heroin prescribing and drug safety-testing, looking at opening a “safe consumption room”, and involving police with diverting drug users towards support services rather than the criminal justice system.
In May 2019, Met Commissioner Cressida Dick stressed to MPs that increased levels of serious violent crime in London at that time were closely “connected to drugs, in one way or another. It is, in my view, at the roots of it all.”
Later that year Sadiq Khan told the Evening Standard he favoured society having “an evidence-based conversation about cannabis – about the law, how it is enforced, and how we support those struggling with addiction.” The Mayor had previously opposed any relaxation of rules governing cannabis use.
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