Cannabis U-turn by police
Police have launched a "zero tolerance" crackdown on cannabis users in a London borough.
In a major policy U-turn, police and lawyers have agreed the tough action is the only solution to drug dealing and anti-social behaviour on the streets.
The three-month operation has been ordered by senior officers in Battersea in Wandsworth.
It is aimed at cracking down on lawless gangs of youths openly smoking and dealing the drug on the street.
The move on a notorious Battersea estate is the latest twist in how police in London deal with cannabis users.
The area is only a few miles from where the first "softly softly" approach to cannabis was piloted by former police chief Brian Paddick in 2001.
The Lambeth trial led to the controversial change in the classification of the drug from B to C which allowed police to merely warn people caught in possession of small quantities.
However, the change led to increasing health worries over the use of strong cannabis varieties such as skunk.
Gordon Brown has recently announced a review of the "softly softly" laws which could see cannabis become a Class B drug again, attracting stiffer penalties for dealers.
The crackdown has been ordered in the Latchmere area which includes the Winstanley estate.
People living there say the area has become a focus for open drug dealing among youths visiting the area.
Now anyone caught with cannabis in a "drugs exclusion zone" faces prosecution or a criminal caution.
The Crown Prosecution Service has given police the authority to arrest anyone found in possession of any amount of cannabis. All offenders will be either charged or given a conditional caution.
Normally, possession of small amounts is dealt with by a warning.
Sergeant James Bullock said: "There will be no more cannabis warnings.
"We will look towards conditional cautions for those of previous good character and who admit possession, but those who do not fit that criteria will be charged and appear in court." And Borough Commander Chief Superintendent Stewart Low said the policy had been introduced because of concerns about drug dealing and anti-social behaviour.