Mayor’s proposed London Drugs Commission to focus on cannabis reform
In his re-election manifesto launched earlier this month, London Mayor, Sadiq Khan has pledged to look into the role drugs play in impacting community health and wellbeing, serious violence and organised crime.
The London Mayor oversees policing and crime policy for the city and its police force and, with Metropolitan Police resources so thinly stretched, Khan believes they could be better deployed dealing with drugs that cause the most harm.
“In the absence of any action at the national level, I will establish a London Drugs Commission comprising independent experts and leading figures from the fields of criminal justice, public health, politics, community relations and academia. The Commission will pull together evidence on the effectiveness of our drug laws, but with particular focus on cannabis,” he states in his ‘Sadiq for London 2021’ manifesto.
Potential for cannabis reform
Although Sadiq Khan has previously said he is against decriminalising class-A drugs such as cannabis and heroin, he would support cannabis reform if the Commission concludes such reform would be beneficial to crime reduction and increased public health.
Whilst the role of London Mayor has no powers to change the law, he hopes the Commission findings would provoke “an overdue national debate”, although both Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer and Conservative PM, Boris Johnson seem unlikely to actively support any change in the current law.
A different approach
As Metropolitan police commissioner, the London Mayor does have the power to instruct officers not to arrest individuals found in possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use and not to ‘stop and search’ those smelling of cannabis to free up manpower to police more serious criminal activity. This approach has already been put into practice in several police forces across the country, where individuals are instead referred for treatment or given ‘harm reduction’ advice rather than being detained and criminalised.
Despite cannabis use across the country appearing to remain steady, the recorded arrest rate has been falling, suggesting the Police are already holding back on criminalising cannabis possession and its use. Elsewhere in Europe, Portugal decriminalised all drugs in 2001 so perhaps this nudge in the right direction is what’s needed for the UK to overhaul its drugs laws.
According to Canex, industry experts and activists have estimated that a legal cannabis industry in the UK could be worth £2 billion by 2024, which would be a welcome boost to HM Treasury as the UK makes its way out of the pandemic and the immediate impact of Brexit.
In terms of the other Mayoral candidates, the Lib Dem’s Siobhan Benita is calling for cannabis to be legalised while the Conservatives’ candidate, Shaun Bailey, is (perhaps unsurprisingly) looking to maintain the status quo. The Green Party candidate, Sian Berry supports an end to ‘stop and search’ based on smelling cannabis, which sits pretty much in the middle.
It will be interesting to see what, if any, action is taken to decriminalise cannabis after the elections on May 6th. Watch this space!