The Mayor of London will launch a review to examine the feasibility of decriminalizing cannabis as part of a new approach to tackling drug-related crime.
Sadiq Khan said he would set up an independent London drug commission to investigate the potential health, economic and criminal benefits of decriminalizing the class B drug.
According to surveys, nearly two-thirds of people in London and more than half of the UK support the legalization of cannabis for recreational use by adults.
Should he be re-elected on May 6, Khan stands ready to consider changes to the legal status of cannabis when the commission reaches that conclusion.
But he ruled out the decriminalization of class A drugs like heroin and cocaine.
A source close to the mayor told the Guardian: “It will be up to the commission to review the evidence in the round, but nothing is dated on what is best for the public health and safety of Londoners Table.”
The London Drugs Commission would include independent experts from the fields of criminal justice, public health, politics, community relations and science.
Evidence of the effectiveness of UK drug laws, police and addiction support services will be examined. It would report back to the mayor with recommendations for town hall, government, police, the criminal justice system, as well as the NHS and treatment services.
It also examines how countries around the world are tackling drug-related crime, including Canada, Uruguay, and several U.S. states that have legalized recreational cannabis. In Spain the private use of cannabis is allowed, while in the Netherlands the sale of marijuana in coffee shops is allowed.
In Portugal, drug possession and use have been decriminalized since 2001, with an emphasis on improved treatment programs and better prevention, education and welfare services.
Khan is expected to announce the commission as part of his mayoral election manifesto released Tuesday, in which he says new ideas are needed to tackle illicit drug trafficking and that he believes too many young people are turning to drug use be criminalized.
But it could bring him into conflict with the leader of the opposition.
The Labor leader recently said he was against decriminalization and that current drug laws were “about right”.
But Sir Keir Starmer told Sky News that “there has always been room for adult debate about how we deal with these cases”.
Drug trafficking in the UK costs society an estimated £ 19 billion a year, according to the Mayor’s Office. Around 41,900 people were charged with drug offenses in England and Wales last year.
Cannabis is a Class B drug, and it is illegal to own or sell cannabis products that contain THC, the drug’s psychoactive compound that makes users feel “high”.
Cannabis products that do not contain THC but contain a second CBD compound are legal in the UK.
Medical cannabis has been legal in the UK since the law was changed in November 2018.
It must be prescribed by a specialist doctor and is only recommended for a few conditions, including severe epilepsy.
Other conditions for which medical cannabis can be prescribed include spasticity due to multiple sclerosis and nausea due to chemotherapy treatments.
While Khan cannot create new laws, he believes that a recommendation from the mayor, should the commission recommend decriminalizing cannabis, would give it a boost.
Khan, who has called for an “evidence-based conversation” about cannabis in the past, will say, “It is time for new ideas on how to reduce the harm drugs and drug-related crimes cause to individuals, families and communities.
“The Commission will make recommendations that will focus on the most effective laws to fight crime, protect the health of Londoners and reduce the tremendous harm that illegal drugs, including cannabis, do to our communities and society.”
In 2019, the bipartisan Commons Health Committee stated that a health-related approach would benefit users and reduce the harm and costs to the general public.
She called on the government to seek advice on decriminalizing drug possession for personal use.
The Survation poll, cited by the Mayor’s Office and published in July 2019, found that 63 percent of London residents were in favor of legalizing and regulating cannabis, while only 19 percent were against the idea. Across the UK, 47 percent were in favor of legalization and 30 percent against.