Pilot scheme to be launched in London offering under 25 year old’s caught with Cannabis-education rather than prison.

The Mayor firmly believes that drug use, and its related crimes, are preventable and not inevitable. That is why his approaches to tackling these issues are rooted in deterrence and early intervention.

A pilot scheme is going to be launched targeting under 25 year old’s who are caught with Cannabis to undergo a counselling and rehabilitation course instead of facing arrest.

The scheme is to be launched in Lewisham and two other boroughs, and would only apply to 18-24 year old’s found in possession of a small amount of Cannabis, with the results undergoing a robust evaluation prior to any further roll out.

The pilot is based on a successful Thames Valley Model which won a national award last year and replicates common practice to divert those who have committed low level offending away from the criminal justice system and into support services to provide positive interventions.

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said:“The Mayor firmly believes that drug use, and its related crimes, are preventable and not inevitable. That is why his approaches to tackling these issues are rooted in deterrence and early intervention.

“City Hall is working closely with community groups across London, providing them with the resources they need to tackle poverty, alienation and a lack of opportunity so that they can help bring about lasting change in their local area. 

“A core focus of this work is investigating various ways in which young people can be diverted away from low-level drug use by being better informed about its harm, and MOPAC is actively involved in discussions around this scheme. 

“We know that we’ll never be able to simply arrest our way out of the problem, which is why we continue to work on schemes that provide young people with support and education, rather than simply putting them through the criminal justice system – with the aim of diverting them away from drug use and crime for good.”

Nicholas West, an east London film maker who has recently made a documentary on drugs entitle ‘More Harm Than Good?’ spoke to the Havering Daily about the issue of drugs and their decriminalisation.

“The Mayor of London has announced a pilot scheme where under 25’s who are found in possession of small amounts of cannabis and ketamine will be offered education instead of a criminal punishment.

“Last year I finished my documentary More Harm Than Good which I began work on in 2017. I think it’s really worth mentioning that I’ve never taken an illegal drug in my life (call me sensible or boring, or both!) but the contradiction between the laws around tobacco and alcohol vs often much less harmful substances that are deemed illegal fascinated me and so I started making this film that explores drug policy and whether after 50 years, fighting the war on drugs has achieved its aims and does the criminalisation of certain drugs make us any safer?

“Sadiq Khan’s announcement came at an important time as over the weekend the Metropolitan Police boasted about their drug testing operation on the streets of Shoreditch. Quite literally pulling people off the street and testing to see if they had illegal substances in their system. The issue with this isn’t just the obscene intrusiveness on people’s evening with no intel whatsoever but also the fact that even if someone does have a class A substance in their body, it would be totally legal to do so as it is not in fact a criminal offence to take illegal drugs, only to be found in possession of them. Ironically this questionable operation targeting random people is happening amid the backdrop of intoxicated drinkers stumbling their way around the capital’s streets.

“When low scale use is criminalised it can have devastating effects on the users life. Most people can use most drugs recreationally and still go about the rest of their life fine, just like people who drink alcohol. However, what is dissimilar to alcohol, if they are caught in possession of an illegal substance they could face having a criminal record, losing their job and even prison. When making “More Harm Than Good?”, one of the most bizarre discoveries to me was that a low scale drug user could end up going to prison, mixing it up with career criminals and come out back into society with the connections and know-how to commit far more serious crimes. It’s so incredibly counterproductive that we punish murders and drug users with the same methods.

“In contrast, about 20 years ago Portugal had a heroin epidemic. The problem was so significant that all political parties joined together to commission a review into the problem and agreed no matter the outcome, to follow the recommendations. The recommendation was to decriminalise the use of drugs and instead offer a safe place for users to test and take drugs and then offer them training in a meaningful career such as car mechanics. Just a few years after implementation, the country saw a significant drop in heroin use and other acts of crime over time as drug users had a meaningful job and purpose and no longer wanted to be using a harmful substance anymore. Even more conservative countries like Switzerland have had similar success with similar policy to Portugal which begs the question, why has the UK been reluctant to at least trial it?

“So back to today’s announcement. It is clearly an attempt to shift towards a model that will move away from destroying young people’s lives for simply being in possession of a substance that our society decided decades ago that it was illegal. My personal prediction for this scheme is that we are bound to see is a lowering in crime rates, less strain on courts and prison services and ultimately safer use of these substances as users will take less risks when using them given the lesser punishment of an educational course. I hope the scheme is successful and we see it rolled out for other substances and age groups. Only time will tell but after 50 years of criminalisation, it’s time to do something different.

“More Harm Than Good?” will be shown in Romford this summer. Keep an eye on the Havering Daily for screening information.”

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