News, Politics

Mayor of London Plans to Divert Young Cannabis Consumers Away from Prosecution

February 22, 2022 08:00 am ET
Mayor of London Plans to Divert Young Cannabis Consumers Away from Prosecution

Recent reports suggesting that London Mayor Sadiq Khan would decriminalize cannabis in London may have been blown out of proportion. Khan has since issued some clarification in response to media speculation regarding his plans to decriminalize the Class B drug.

Rather than going down the route of complete drug decriminalization, Khan is keen on the idea of running a trial scheme across three London boroughs: Bexley, Greenwich, and Lewisham.

What Would Kahn’s Decriminalization Trial Entail?

The project would provide drug diversion assistance—such as counseling and speed awareness courses—as opposed to prosecution for people ages 18 to 24 who are caught in possession of a small amount of cannabis. Schemes that have been carried out in a similar fashion, in which education and support services are presented to offenders, have already been commanded by British police forces.

For example, 40% of adults managed to complete their course when they participated in the Thames Valley Drug Diversion Scheme, which is 10% above the national average for informal agreements that resolve anti-social behavior and/or minor offenses, aka “community resolution.”

Steering young adults away from the criminal justice system and, instead, in the direction of support services “has been shown to reduce reoffending.” Currently in its development phase, the limited trial’s inception is contingent on City Hall approval.

This is according to a spokesperson for the mayor, who noted that “reducing crime is the Mayor’s top priority and he will continue to explore and implement the most effective solutions to help to divert young people away from drug use and crime for good.” The spokesperson added that Khan does not possess the power to decriminalize drugs.

Kahn’s Concerns About Cannabis Decriminalization

Khan believes that drug decriminalization could stimulate higher rates of murder, black market purchases, and substance abuse. His opinion is backed up by Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, who believes that Parliament should decide, as well as Andy Cook from the Center for Social Justice. “Criminal gangs will see their turnover soar. That will attract more crime, not less,” said Cook.

Thriller novel writer Alex Berenson has advised U.K. lawmakers to learn a lesson from the United States. The American author, who penned the book Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence, believes that the plant does more harm than good.

“Study after study backs up that states where marijuana is legalized have suffered a sharp increase in crime,” said Berenson, who received death threats after he cited a sharp increase in violence across the first-moving legal cannabis States of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

Interestingly, though, a more recent study revealed that recreational cannabis legalization in Oregon freed up resources for law enforcement to solve more violent crimes—a positive change as a result of legalizing cannabis. Further, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora Volkow announced last year that legalization did not lead to increased underage use. In the same interview, she also voiced her belief in the therapeutic potential of cannabis.

How Could Cannabis Decriminalization Benefit the U.K.?

Amid the coronavirus-stimulated turbulence that’s sent the U.K. economy plummeting south—gross domestic product (GDP) was 25% less in April 2022 than it was two months prior—advocates are urging lawmakers to consider the financial benefits of cannabis decriminalization.

Although decriminalization wouldn’t legalize cannabis sales, it would surely push things in the right direction. Based on the findings of a recent study carried out by Volteface, 59% of the British population supports the prospect of cannabis legalization, whereas 75% of those surveyed said they would consume the plant if a doctor prescribed it to them.

Considering the fact that the British government currently funnels £1 billion ($1.4 billion USD) into cannabis-related prosecutions and seizures, the U.K. government stands to save a generous amount of money with decriminalization and, subsequently, legalization. A significant chunk of money is also spent treating people who suffer health problems from consuming contaminated illicit market-sold cannabis.

Tourism is another major appeal of cannabis reform. Take Colorado for example, which became the first U.S. state to legalize cannabis in 2012 with the passing of Colorado Amendment 64. By 2016, cannabis tourism in Colorado had already amassed $1 billion. According to the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO), visitors who engage in such activities spend an average of $1,930 per trip.

Relaxed U.K. cannabis laws could also earn the Treasury £1.4 billion in additional taxes, which is sufficient to afford the salaries of ambulance staff and midwives across England. That’s without even mentioning the potential business and job creation that goes hand-in-hand with a legal cannabis market.

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