Today I’ve pledged to deprioritise the policing of cannabis consumption in London, including an immediate stop to using just the smell of cannabis to justify stop and search.
The use of stop and search on suspicion of drugs possession surged in London during the first lockdown but statistics show that the rate of searches for black men went up from 7.2 per cent per 1000 in March to 9.3 per cent per 1000 in April, and were searched at four times the rate of white people.
The Independent Office of Police Conduct recently published a series of recommendations to the Met Police regarding the use of stop and search. Among them was the cessation of stopping and searching citizens solely on the basis of the smell of cannabis.
This is just one measure I will take to move problematic drug use from a criminal issue to a public health issue in the capital. Other policies to reduce the harm of drugs in my manifesto for London will include
- working with the health sector and charities to provide heroin prescribing and free drug safety testing,
- exploring the possibility of opening a safe consumption room following expert academic and legal advice,
- working with the police to divert drug users from the criminal justice system to support services.
In October 2019, The Green Party adopted the most progressive drugs policy of any major party, pledging to decriminalise and regulate all drugs. This is an approach supported by independent campaigners.
No credible candidate for Mayor could look at the data and claim that prohibition and an enforcement-based war on drug use 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, allowing police officers to focus on serious crimes rather than racially profiling our population, harassing London’s young people and locking up those who need medical help.
As Mayor, I will save police officer time for things that really improve public safety by deprioritising the policing of cannabis, with an immediate end to stop and search based only on the smell of this drug. This will be the first step in an ambitious programme of reform, working with the police, the health service, and wider civil society to put harm reduction first.
After fifty failing years of the war on drugs, it’s time for a fresh start
2021 is the fifty year anniversary of the ‘war on drugs’ – that’s longer than I’ve been alive. The Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) tried to eliminate the use of illegal drugs through prohibitionist policies.
Yet in 2019 there were 4,359 drugs related deaths in England and Wales – the highest number ever recorded.
493 of these deaths were recorded in London – which is, jointly with 2018, the highest number recorded in over 20 years.