London’s Labour mayor Sadiq Khan has announced a new body to examine whether cannabis should be decriminalised in the UK, prompting predictable criticism from the country’s Conservative government and even a mild rebuke from his own party.
The London Drugs Commission, headed up by Labour peer, barrister and former secretary of state for justice Lord Falconer, will review the effectiveness of the UK’s drug laws relating to cannabis.
While decriminalising drugs does not fall within the mayor’s remit, Khan said it was important to “reduce the huge damage that illegal drugs cause to our communities”, while Falconer agreed a national debate on the topic was “long overdue”.
The commission will examine research from University College London and focus on cannabis rather than class A drugs.
Khan told the PA news agency a conversation was needed about the UK’s cannabis laws, including a review of what has happened in other countries where laws have been reformed.
Khan is currently on a short tour of the US that has seen him visit licensed cannabis businesses in Los Angeles including a cultivation facility, dispensary and retail outlet.
He said: “It’s important to see for ourselves what the parallel world of legalised cannabis looks like as a compare and contrast.
“We need to have an honest, open conversation about the evidence in relation to the history of cannabis and our laws in the UK and our experience of the health consequences in relation to crime and the community.
“The best way to do that will be with the drugs commission we’ve now set up.”
However, his plans to start a debate met with a predictable backlash from the country’s Conservative government, with home secretary Priti Patel tweeting: “Sadiq Khan’s time would be better spent focusing on knife and drug crime in London.
“The mayor has no powers to legalise drugs. They ruin communities, tear apart families and destroy lives.”
Even Khan’s own Labour party distanced itself from the initiative, with a spokesman saying the party does not support changing drug laws.
“Drugs policy is not devolved to mayors and under Labour would continue to be set by national government,” he added.
A YouGov poll recently found 52% of Brits backed decriminalising cannabis, with 32% against the move.