Sadiq Khan has announced a commission to examine the effectiveness of the UK’s drug laws, with a particular focus on those governing cannabis.
The London drugs commission, to be chaired by Lord Charlie Falconer QC, a former lord chancellor and justice secretary, was one of Khan’s manifesto pledges in his re-election bid last year.
The mayor of London’s office said a panel of independent experts in criminal justice, public health, politics, community relations and academia will be assembled to consider evidence from around the world on the outcomes of various drug policies.
Khan is now on a four-day visit to the US to promote investment in London to support its recovery from the pandemic. The trip has also included a fact-finding mission to Los Angeles to see the impact of the city’s decision to legalize cannabis in 2016.
Khan has visited a cannabis dispensary and cultivation facility, met licensed retailers and growers, and spoken with officials from the Los Angeles Police Department and the city’s local government.
California legalized the recreational use of cannabis after a public ballot that passed with the approval of 57% of voters, although individual counties and cities can still choose to ban its sale.
Supporters said the move would create a market for safe and regulated cannabis while reducing the power of criminal gangs.
The law changes led to a fall in cannabis-related arrests – from 13,810 in 2016 to 6,065 in 2017 – but critics have pointed out that the illicit market continues to thrive, with up to 90% of all sales still coming from unlicensed sellers.
London’s commission will aim to assess the best methods to prevent drug use, the most effective criminal justice responses, and the public health benefits of different approaches.
University College London has been appointed to provide research and analysis on the implications of any potential change in policy.
The commission will not consider class A drugs.
Once it has completed its work, it will make policy recommendations for City Hall, the government, the police, the criminal justice system and public health services.
Announcing the commission, Khan said he believed it would help “tackle drug-related crime, protect Londoners’ health and reduce the huge damage that illegal drugs cause to our communities”.
He added: “The illegal drugs trade causes huge damage to our society and we need to do more to tackle this epidemic and further the debate around our drugs laws.
“That’s why I am here today in LA, to see first-hand the approach they have taken to cannabis.”
Falconer said: “I’m honored to have been appointed chair of the London drugs commission. We need rigorously to identify what is the best approach to reduce harm to our communities.
“A national debate is long overdue. We aim to make recommendations to bring about effective and lasting change.”
The Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti, said that decriminalization of cannabis offered “historically marginalized communities opportunities for healing, entrepreneurship, and wealth creation” in a growing industry.
“Cities have so much to learn from one another, and I applaud mayor Khan’s thoughtful approach as London moves forward,” he said.