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British Police Commander Accused of Taking Drugs While on Vacation

More than any other place, the British cannabis conversation has always been tragicomic. The latest developments are no exception. 

Julian Bennett, who wrote the Metropolitan police’s current drug strategy, is facing discharge after being accused of gross misconduct. Namely, for taking LSD and cannabis while on vacation across the Channel. 

These things are unaffected by Brexit.

Bennett has also been accused of not providing a urine sample for CBD treatment on July 21, 2019. Bennett was also accused of refusing to provide a sample on July 21, 2020.

His fate hearing, originally scheduled for this week, has been rescheduled for May 23. What is the reason for this? Bennett’s lawyers have argued that it would be unfair to proceed because they had not received all of the digital evidence, including pictures sent via WhatsApp. So far, according to reports, there is one Whatsapp’ed photo showing cannabis on a table.

Bennett, who was also the commander of territorial police, wrote the MPS’s drug strategy from 2017 to 2021. This is even more shocking. Between 2010 and 2012, Bennett presided over 74 drug misconduct hearings involving 90 officers. 56 officers—or more than 75 percent of his colleagues who came in front of him—were dismissed.

Bennett was drafted into the police force in 1977. He has had a successful career that included planning for London 2012 Olympics. His current position at the time of Bennett’s suspension involved managing pandemic planning and prosecutions. A Scotland Yard panel that dismissed misconduct against the five officers in the incident that resulted in Sean Rigg’s death as a Black musician was also led by Bennett.

Timely Timing

The news comes as the head of the MPS, also Britain’s largest police force, Cressida Dick, has been forced to resign after Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London accused her of presiding over a culture of racism and misogyny. Dick was under increasing scrutiny for her handling of (or failing to manage) several scandals that rocked British police in recent years. 

This includes a case where an MPS officer kidnapped and later murdered a 33-year-old woman—Sarah Everard. A police watchdog report on February 1 revealed disturbing evidence of central London officers engaging in homophobia, misogyny and bullying over many years. 

The outrage over the ongoing scandals also includes the recent MPS stance that it would not investigate Boris Johnson’s “Partygate.”

This comes at a time when campaigners and the cannabis industry in the UK are again urging the government to adopt a modern approach to the cannabis reform currently underway worldwide.

Khan will likely move ahead with his suggestion that London should be at the centre of a decriminalization trial. This is especially important considering the connection between racism in London and the drug arrests there. New YouGov Poll reveals that the idea is popular with 63% of Londoners backing it. Both supporters and opponents are behind the idea.

While the pilot program has only been proposed for three of London’s 32 Boroughs, 59 percent of city residents would also support a similar trial in their neighbourhoods.

Despite the support, a cabal of Tory MPs have already condemned the plan, suggesting that it would “effectively decriminalise cannabis.”

It is a small pilot and further an experiment to see if a minor policy shift might work. However, the pilot has faced strong opposition in parliament.

Political Leaders vs. People

No matter the parliamentary convulsions on the topic, the reality is that attitudes towards drugs are rapidly changing across the UK—just like everywhere else. The police and the officers responsible for maintaining current policies as well as shaming colleagues who do the same, seem to be included in this change.

There is a lot of dismay in the UK right now about the current Prime Minister and major failures at places such as the police.

It’s not impossible to imagine that public outrage over how many issues were handled after COVID will be the focus of much larger reforms.

Cannabis reform, right now, is absolutely in the mix—in Britain and elsewhere.

British patients still have difficulty getting the medication, while the CBD industry is trying to obtain official certifications of products, but so far, it has been unsuccessful.

It’s time to reform. But it also appears to be, at this point, hanging in the wings while some of the lower lying (if highly placed) rotten fruit falls to the ground and is swept away by rising calls of reform—for not only drug policy—but wider societal changes.