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Drugs row erupts between Barking and Dagenham political rivals following London mayor Sadiq Khan’s violent crime summit

PUBLISHED: 12:00 14 April 2018

London Assembly Members Unmesh Desai and Andrew Boff. Picture: MIKE BROOKE/TOM SIMPSON

London Assembly Members Unmesh Desai and Andrew Boff. Picture: MIKE BROOKE/TOM SIMPSON

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A row about legalising drugs has erupted between political rivals following a private City Hall violent crime summit.

East London representative Unmesh Desai accused Andrew Boff of being “irresponsible” for saying “bizarre” comments about making drugs legal at the meeting with London mayor Sadiq Khan, home secretary Amber Rudd and Met commissioner Cressida Dick.

Speaking to the Post Mr Boff, a London-wide assembly member, agreed that he did suggest if drugs are linked to knife crime, then why not legalise their supply.

“To call for the legalisation of drugs when people are being attacked is most bizarre. What type of drugs is he talking about? The Hard stuff?” Mr Desai said.

“Knife crime is a serious issue and we need a serious debate. For Boff to talk about legalising drugs at this time is frankly insane and I condemn it in the strongest possible terms.

“It was irresponsible for a politician of his stature and for someone standing as a candidate in the local elections,” he added.

Mr Boff is a Conservative candidate for Longbridge.

Mr Desai – who represents Barking and Dagenham, Newham and Tower Hamlets at City Hall – said he will write to the borough’s Conservative branch to see whether the idea is party policy.

He added people at the meeting “were aghast” when Mr Boff made the suggestion and that no one responded.

“They treated his comment with complete disdain. People right now want to know what the police can do to stop attacks,” he said.

However, Mr Boff – who first suggested legalising cannabis at a Young Conservative national conference in 1976 – hit back saying: “We’ve got to save young lives being wasted and fed into this illegal drugs market machine.”

He said if saving lives meant producing and supplying cannabis legally then it should be done.

“Criminal gangs use the most vulnerable and impressionable people to distribute that poison. Parents are expecting us to do something about this,” Mr Boff said.

“Stronger cannabis is doing irreparable damage. It can cause death. But we can do almost nothing about that while it’s unregulated. Regulation would make it safer for users and those involved in supply,” he said.

In a letter Mr Boff reminded Amber Rudd drug dealing played a part in the “tragic loss of young lives that we have seen”.

On his critics, he said: “Maybe they care more about scoring political points than saving lives.”

Mr Desai denied this. “We are saying, ‘How do you stop the supply of knives?’ It’s a very serious issue. Andrew wasn’t specific at all. This should be about how to work with police, not the legalisation of drugs or anything else,” he said.

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