Why we’re talking about . . .

The benefits of cannabis legalisation

London Mayor Sadiq Khan says there is widespread public support for decriminalisation of the class-B drug

Sadiq Khan is to launch a review on the “feasibility” of decriminalising cannabis as part of a new approach to tackling drug-related crime should he be re-elected mayor of London.

Khan is to set up an independent London drugs commission “to examine the potential health, economic and criminal justice benefits of decriminalising the class-B drug”, The Guardian reports. 

The plans are expected to be outlined in Khan’s mayoral election manifesto, which is being published today in the run-up to the 6 May vote. 

The London mayor believes there is “widespread public support for a more relaxed approach to decriminalisation”, says The Guardian, with his office citing polls that show more than two-thirds of Londoners support legalising cannabis for adult recreational use. More than half of UK residents feel the same. 

As mayor of London, Khan “only has the ability to recommend a policy position”, notes London Playbook. While he cannot change the law or decriminalise cannabis himself, he is willing to consider supporting changes to the legal status of cannabis if that is what his new commission concludes.

The Telegraph writes that a “mayoral endorsement” would give decriminalisation of cannabis “a boost”. 

A London drugs commission would include independent experts from criminal justice, public health, politics, community relations and academia, said the paper. 

It is likely to look at Portugal’s approach to drug policy. There, possession and consumption of illicit substances have been decriminalised since 2001. Drug users in the country are also given access to treatment programmes and harm reduction and support services, rather than face arrest for possessing a “personal supply”. 

The commission is also likely to consider the experiences of Canada, Uruguay and several US states, where cannabis for recreational use has been legalised.

The Survation survey, commissioned by the Evening Standard and cited by the mayor’s office, found that 63% of London residents backed the legalisation and regulation of cannabis, while just 19% opposed the idea. Across the UK as a whole, 47% backed legalisation, while 30% were against, said the 2019 survey. 

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