Policing minister tells Khan to end his support for legal cannabis

Policing minister Kit Malthouse tells Sadiq Khan to end his ‘baffling’ support for legalising cannabis and to focus on tackling knife crime and violence in London instead

  • Kit Malthouse said the Mayor of London’s push to legalise weed in the UK 
  • Sadiq Khan visited medical marijuana dispensaries in the US on a recent trip
  • He was impressed and set up a review group of the UK’s drug laws in response

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse has slammed London mayor Sadiq Khan for his plans to legalise cannabis.

Mr Malthouse said the Mayor of London’s review into cannabis legislation and his photoshoot at a Californian weed farm was ‘baffling’ – linking it with knife crime in the capital.

Mr Khan used a trip to America to renew his calls for cannabis to be legalised in the UK – stating his intention to further decriminalise the Class B drug.

Mr Malthouse said the Mayor of London’s review into cannabis legislation and his photoshoot at a Californian weed farm was ‘baffling’

Mr Khan walking through cannabis plants in LA last week while on an oversea trip

Writing in the Sun, Mr Malthouse wrote: ‘Knife crime cuts too many lives short – often young kids – and leaves a trail of broken hearts behind.

‘I continue to push the police to be even more dogged in fighting knife crime

‘So we are giving them more powers and resources to track down those known to have carried previously.

‘But we cannot ignore the intrinsic link between this violence and drugs.

‘Almost 50% of murders are linked to drugs in some way.

‘So I find it baffling that just last week, the Mayor of London thought it appropriate to stage a photoshoot in a cannabis farm in LA, to reiterate his support for the legalisation of this entry level drug.

‘I profoundly wish he would focus on knife crime and violence taking place in the capital instead.’

The intervention came as Malthouse is preparing to launch Operation Sceptre an initiative to dedicate thousands of officers from all forces to tackling knife crime.

He added: ‘Having met the families of some of those killed, I know these victims are not just statistics – they are people’s beloved daughters and sons, and they need someone to feel responsible.

‘There are simply no positives to carrying a knife and I have made promises to the families of victims that I will do everything in my power to drive down this senseless violence.

‘From putting more cops on the streets – 13,500 already and 20,000 by next year – to funding more programmes to direct those at risk away from crime.

‘Since this government was elected in 2019, a staggering 50,000 knives and offensive weapons have been removed from our streets through stop and search, surrender initiatives and other police action’.

Mr Khan was so impressed with the cannabis outlet and production line he announced the formation of a new group to look at decriminalising the drug in Britain.

But the photoshoot – which featured him looking serious surrounded by the plants – has prompted utter disbelief in some quarters.

Home Secretary Priti Patel, who has vowed to crackdown on middle-class drug users, was no plan of the Mayor’s drive.

She said: ‘Sadiq Khan’s time would be better spent focusing on knife and drug crime in London.

‘The Mayor has no powers to legalise drugs.

‘They ruin communities, tear apart families and destroy lives.’ 

Mr Khan’s cannabis farm visit in Los Angeles and new decriminalisation group puts him on a collision course with Labour leader Keir Starmer.

A party spokesperson confirmed this morning: ‘Labour does not support changing the law on drugs.

‘Drugs policy is not devolved to mayors and under Labour would continue to be set by national government.’

The Mayor of London said former justice secretary Lord Charlie Falconer QC will be the chair of the first London Drugs Commission, which will assess the effectiveness of UK drug laws.

Home Secretary Priti Patel in the Central Lobby at the Palace of Westminster during the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords, London, on Tuesday

Mrs Patel gave little doubt of her views on whether decriminalising cannabis would be a good idea for London and the UK

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan walks through cannabis plants which are being legally cultivated at ‘Traditional’ a licensed factory in Los Angeles, Wednesday May 11, 2022

Sir Keir insisted in January he was against softening the law after it was revealed a proposed pilot programme would see young adults caught with the Class B drug offered speeding course-style classes or counselling instead of arrest. 

LA decriminalised cannabis in 2016 after which arrests related to the drug in California dropped by 56%.

The commission being launched by Mr Khan – a manifesto pledge during last year’s City Hall elections – will examine the effectiveness of UK drugs laws, with a particular focus on cannabis, but will not consider class A drugs. 

Cannabis is currently classed as a class B drug, with a maximum sentence of five years in prison for possession.

Though advocates say it can make people feel happier, sceptics warn that regular cannabis use increases the risk of developing a psychotic illness. Results from European neighbours offer an insight into the potential pitfalls of the policy – with Portugal seeing a huge surge in cannabis-induced psychosis after it decriminalised the drug in 2001. 

In January, King’s College London professor Sir Robin Murray said around a third of the psychosis patents he sees at his practice in south London are mostly young people suffering from debilitating paranoia and hallucinations caused by use of high-strength skunk. 

Sadiq Khan has visited a cannabis farm in Los Angeles as he announced the formation of a new group to look at decriminalising the drug in Britain

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan at Traditional, a licensed cannabis cultivation business in Los Angeles during a visit to the US in a bid to boost London’s tourism industry. Wednesday May 11, 2022

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan at Traditional, a licensed cannabis cultivation business in Los Angeles during a visit to the US in a bid to boost London’s tourism industry. Wednesday May 11, 2022

Labour Party Leader Sir Keir Starmer leaving his home in north London, May 11, 2022

Cannabis is most widely used illegal drug in the UK – but it can cause a myriad of health problems

Cannabis (also known as marijuana, weed, pot, dope or grass) is the most widely used illegal drug in the UK.

The effects of cannabis can vary a lot from person to person. It can also vary depending on how much or how often it’s taken and what it contains.

Some examples include: Feeling chilled out, relaxed and happy; laughing more or become more talkative; feeling hunger pangs (‘the munchies’; feeling drowsy, tired or lethargic; feeling faint or sick; having problems with memory or concentrating; experiencing mild hallucinations; feeling confused, anxious or paranoid. 

Cannabis and mental health

Regular cannabis use increases the risk of developing a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia.

A psychotic illness is one where you have hallucinations (seeing things that are not really there) and delusions (believing things that are not really true).

The risk of developing a psychotic illness is higher in people who: start using cannabis at a young age; smoke stronger types, such as skunk; smoke it regularly; use it for a long time; smoke cannabis and also have other risk factors for schizophrenia, such as a family history of the illness

Cannabis also increases the risk of a relapse in people who already have schizophrenia, and it can make psychotic symptoms worse. 

Other risks of regularly using cannabis can include: feeling wheezy or out of breath; developing an uncomfortable or painful cough; making symptoms of asthma worse in people with asthma; reduced ability to drive or operate machinery safely

If you drive while under the influence of cannabis, you’re more likely to be involved in an accident. This is one reason why drug driving, like drink driving, is illegal.

Source: NHS

Sir Robin suggested the high number of cases in his practice are now impacting the facility’s ability to care for patients.

He told The Times newspaper: ‘I think we’re now 100 per cent sure that cannabis is one of the causes of a schizophrenia-like psychosis.

‘If we could abolish the consumption of skunk we would have 30 per cent less patients [in south London] and we might make a better job of looking after the patients we have.’

Sir Robin works at the first NHS clinic in England to specifically treat cannabis smokers suffering from psychosis.

Running from Maudsley Hospital in Camberwell, south London, patients are typically seen for a minimum of 15 weeks, with treatment including one-on-one sessions with specialist therapists.

The aim of the clinic is to first help cannabis users wean themselves off the drug before helping them to manage without it – helped by weekly group therapy sessions with fellow patients and experts.

Sir Robin has praised the clinic, reporting it to be a success, even when services moved online due to the Covid pandemic.

It comes as Mr Khan continued his four-day tour of the US, which has included visits to New York, San Francisco and LA and saw him chat with late-night TV host James Corden and Love Actually director Richard Curtis on Wednesday evening. 

Yesterday he met with LA mayor Eric Garcetti, and visited a cannabis dispensary and farm in the city to see what lessons could be learned in the UK in responding to the challenges of drugs. 

Speaking at the Traditional cannabis dispensary and cultivation centre in downtown LA, Mr Khan said that an ‘honest, open’ conversation was needed about UK cannabis laws, adding that visiting the facility had been ‘fascinating’.

‘We need to have an honest, open conversation about the evidence in relation to the history of cannabis and our laws in the UK and our experience of the health consequences in relation to crime and the community,’ he said.

‘The best way to do that will be with the drugs commission we’ve now set up.

‘You can hear from the experts, that’s one thing, but seeing it for yourself… hearing from those who cultivate and grow this plant has been fascinating.’

On his opinion of the facility, he continued: ‘[It] is quite clearly heavily regulated, there are really high standards, no corners are being cut, they’re readily inspected by the city, by the experts.

‘It’s important to see for ourselves what the parallel world of legalised cannabis looks like as a compare and contrast.

‘What I hope the London Drugs Commission will do is look [at] what happens elsewhere in the world where the laws have been changed.’

Mr Khan later visited Gorrila RX Wellness shop in the Crenshaw area of the city, which stocks 1,900 brands of cannabis-related products including beverages, edibles and coffee beans.

Kika Keith, owner of the shop, said the decriminalisation of cannabis in the UK would ‘tremendously help’ London’s black community.

‘The people of colour in London should have opportunities to learn about the workforce opportunities, the entrepreneurship … it should really be a diversified industry,’ she said.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan at Traditional, a licensed cannabis cultivation business in Los Angeles during a visit to the US in a bid to boost London’s tourism industry. Wednesday May 11, 2022

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan walks through cannabis plants which are being legally cultivated at ‘Traditional’ a licensed factory in Los Angeles, May 11, 2022

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan pitches the first ball at the San Francisco Giants v Colorado Rockies baseball game at Oracle Park in San Francisco, May 10, 2022

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan talking to late-night TV host James Corden at a reception for the creative industries hosted by the mayor in Hollywood, Tuesday May 10, 2022

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan speaking during a visit to the Islamic Centre of Southern California in Los Angeles, Wednesday May 11, 2022

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (left) meeting Mayor of LA Eric Garcetti at City Hall in Los Angeles. Wednesday May 11, 2022

Ms Keith, who is the first black female owner of a cannabis shop in LA, added: ‘The cannabis industry is the fastest-growing workforce, it gives us the opportunity to get into new jobs, new careers that were never established.

‘It gives us opportunities for ownership and … it’s a real opportunity to build communities if we do it in the right way.’

The mayor’s visits form part of a ‘fact-finding mission’ to investigate an international evidence-based approach to reducing drug-related harm in the capital.

University College London has been appointed to provide world-class evidence-based research and assessment to the Commission on the criminal justice, health and economic implications for any potential change in policy. 

Mr Khan said Lord Falconer would bring ‘decades of experience’ to the role as head of the body and that more needed to be done to tackle the ‘epidemic’ caused by the illegal drug trade.

Lord Falconer said: ‘I’m honoured to have been appointed chair of the London Drugs Commission.

‘It is a real opportunity for there to be a thorough look at the effectiveness of our drugs laws and policy on cannabis.

‘We need rigorously to identify what is the best approach to reduce harm to our communities. A national debate is long overdue.

‘We aim to make recommendations to bring about effective and lasting change.’

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