Sadiq Khan to launch drugs review looking at decriminalising cannabis

Mayor could use head as police chief to launch tolerance policy

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Tuesday 06 April 2021 13:32
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<p>Sadiq Khan is seeking re-election</p>

Sadiq Khan is seeking re-election

Sadiq Khan is to launch a review of drugs policy in the capital that will look at questions around decriminalising cannabis, the Mayor of London has announced.

Launching his re-election campaign Mr Khan said it was time for "fresh ideas" around drugs and that he would establish a London Drugs Commission.

Though Mr Khan does not have the power to decriminalise or legalise drugs, as head of the Metropolitan Police he is responsible for setting the force's strategic priorities.

If recommended by the Commission, the Mayor could order the Met to focus on other crimes or use their resources elsewhere, bringing in a de facto policy of toleration.

Mr Khan promised that the commission would be made up of independent experts and said it would be focused on reducing the harms drug-related crimes caused.

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“It’s time for fresh ideas about how to reduce the harms drugs and drug-related crimes cause to individuals, families and communities," Mr Khan said.

“The illegal drugs trade causes huge damage to our society - driving serious and violent crime, damaging people’s health and criminalising too many young people.

“That’s why, if I’m re-elected, I will establish a new London Drugs Commission comprised of independent experts to examine the latest evidence from around the world.

“The commission will make recommendations focusing on the most effective laws to tackle crime, protect Londoners’ health and reduce the huge damage that illegal drugs, including cannabis, cause to our communities and society.”

Fully decriminalising or legalising cannabis would require the support of the government, which is responsible for the law.

But some countries around the world have kept cannabis illegal and even criminal matter, while tolerating its presence – the origins of the famous "coffee shops" of Amsterdam.

The results of the review could put Mr Khan at odds with his party leader Keir Starmer, who has said he does not support decriminalising the possession of cannabis.

However, Sir Keir said in February that there was "always room for grown-up debate" on the issue.

Boris Johnson’s press secretary Allegra Stratton signalled that the government would not work with Mr Khan on the issue.

She told reporters: “Sadiq Khan, as mayor of London, will know that policy on controlled drugs is a matter for the UK Government not for his office.

“There are no plans to devolve this responsibility.

“The prime minister has spoken about this on many occasions. Drugs destroy lives and he has absolutely no intention of legalising cannabis, which is a harmful substance. His approach will not be changing.”

Asked why the prime minister had made a political attack on Mr Khan’s record during Monday’s coronavirus press conference, Ms Stratton said: “The PM was simply answering a direct question.”

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