London mayor, Sadiq Khan, has announced that he will commission an independent committee to investigate cannabis decriminalization if he is reelected. He is of the belief that public support for greater leniency towards cannabis is there, and recent polls back him up. The committee is expected to make recommendations on crime, health, and the reduction of harm from the illicit drug trade.
The mayor of London will launch a review into the feasibility of cannabis decriminalization as part of a new approach to tackling drug crime.
Sadiq Khan said he would set up an independent drugs commission in London to examine the potential health, economic and criminal justice benefits of cannabis decriminalization in London.
But London isn’t the only place where decriminalization discussions are taking place: keep up with other cannabis decriminalization developments and other cannabis news with our free companion app.
Polls indicate support for cannabis decriminalization
Polls show that nearly two-thirds of Londoners and more than half of the UK support cannabis decriminalization for recreational use by adults.
Should he be re-elected on May 6, Khan would be willing to consider supporting changes to the legal status of cannabis if that is what the commission concludes.
But he has ruled out decriminalization of Class A drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
A source close to the mayor told the Guardian, “It will be up to the commission to consider the evidence in the round, but nothing is off the table in the context of what is best for public health and the safety of Londoners.”
Commission to take broad view of the topic at hand
The London Drug Commission would include independent experts from criminal justice, public health, politics, community relations and academia.
It would review evidence on the effectiveness of the UK’s drug laws, policing and addiction support services, and the impact of cannabis decriminalization. It would report to the mayor with recommendations for the mayor’s office, government, police, the criminal justice system, NHS, and treatment services.
How countries around the world have addressed drug-related crime will also be examined, including Canada, Uruguay, and several U.S. states, where cannabis decriminalization has already been implemented and where recreational cannabis has been legalized. In Spain, private use of cannabis is permitted, while the Netherlands allows the sale of cannabis in cafés.
In Portugal, drug possession and use have been decriminalized since 2001, with a focus on improved treatment programs and better prevention, education and social support services.
Cannabis decriminalization expected to meet with resistance
Khan is expected to announce the cannabis decriminalization commission as part of his mayoral election manifesto, released Tuesday, in which he will say new ideas are needed to combat illegal drug trafficking and that he believes too many young people are criminalized for drug use.
But that may put him at odds with the opposition leader.
The Labour leader recently said he was opposed to cannabis decriminalization and said the current drug laws were “about right.
But Sir Keir Starmer told Sky News that there was “always room for an adult debate about how we deal with these cases.
Cannabis’s legal status and the cost of the illicit drug trade
The illicit drug trade in the UK is estimated to cost society £19 billion a year, according to the Mayor’s office. About 41,900 people across England and Wales were charged with drug-related offenses last year.
Cannabis is a Class B drug, and possession or sale of cannabis products containing THC, the psychoactive compound in the drug that makes people feel “high,” is illegal.
Cannabis products that do not contain THC, but do contain a second compound “CBD”, are legal in the UK.
Medicinal cannabis is legal in the UK since the law was changed in November 2018.
It must be prescribed by a medical specialist and is only recommended for a few medical conditions, including severe epilepsy.
Other conditions for which medicinal cannabis can be prescribed include multiple sclerosis spasticity and nausea caused by chemotherapy treatments.
Decriminalization committee to make recommendations only
While Khan can’t create new laws, he believes that if the commission recommended cannabis decriminalization, an endorsement from the mayor would give it a boost.
Khan, who has in the past called for “an evidence-based conversation” around cannabis decriminalization, will say, “It’s time for new ideas on how to reduce the harms of drugs and drug-related crime to individuals, families and communities.
“The committee will make recommendations focused on the most effective laws to tackle crime, protect the health of Londoners and reduce the huge harm that illicit drugs, including cannabis, cause to our communities and society.
In 2019, the all-party Commons Health Committee said that adopting a health-based approach would benefit users and reduce harm and costs to the community as a whole.
He has asked the government to consult on cannabis decriminalization and personal drug possession.
The Survation survey cited by the mayor’s office, published in July 2019, found that 63% of London residents supported the legalization and regulation of cannabis, while only 19% were opposed to the idea. Across the UK, 47 percent supported legalization, and 30 percent opposed it.
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