Young people caught with cannabis in parts of London will avoid prosecution under plans from Sadiq Khan.
However, the London mayor denied reports he was moving to “decriminalise” drugs in the capital, insisting he did not have the power to do so.
A pilot scheme would see 18 to 24-year-olds caught with a “small amount” of cannabis avoid arrest and instead be offered courses on the dangers of drug use.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Mr Khan was considering extending the scheme to cover all Class B drugs – including ketamine and speed – but this was denied by a spokesman for the mayor.
The pilot would cover three London boroughs, reported to be Lewisham, Bexley and Greenwich.
The mayor’s spokesman told Sky News that Mr Khan “firmly believes that drug use, and its related crimes, are preventable and not inevitable”.
He added: “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.”
Funding for the scheme is yet to be approved but the Telegraph reports it will be announced later this month.
It comes after the Metropolitan Police faced criticism over the weekend for sharing a video of officers testing Londoners for drugs on a night out.
The footage posted on Twitter showed officers on the streets of Shoreditch swabbing people’s hands and searching a man whose face was blurred out.
Taskforce Officers were out recently doing drug swabs in Shoreditch as part of a wider operation to ensure the night time economy is a safe place for all pic.twitter.com/UtMbayPwpt
— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) January 2, 2022
The force said it was “part of a wider operation to ensure the night time economy was a safe place for all” but the video prompted hundreds of comments, with many questioning the legality of the police action and comparing it to the Met’s decision not to investigate alleged COVID-rule breaking parties held in Downing Street.
One Twitter user wrote: “Bit weird, because if they had drugs already in their system it would be a historic crime and we know you don’t investigate those.”
Meanwhile, media law consultant David Banks asked the force: “A lot of people are asking under what legal power you were doing this. Can you explain?”
A day after sharing the footage, the Met Police posted a lengthy statement explaining that the drug swabbing was part of a “week of action” in December to protect women’s safety.
The force said it worked with two licensed premises to swab people for drugs, which was a condition of entry into the venues.
“It was made clear to those wanting to attend the venues that the swabbing was voluntary,” the Met Police said.
“Refusal did not automatically mean that the person would be searched under S23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act.”