London Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced the launch of an expert panel to examine the effectiveness of the UK’s drug laws, with a particular focus on the laws surrounding cannabis.
Former justice secretary Lord Charlie Falconer QC will be the chair of the first London Drugs Commission, which was a key manifesto pledge of Khan’s during his bid to be re-elected as London Mayor in 2021.
The panel will be made up of independent experts in criminal justice, public health, politics, community relations and academia. University College London has been appointed to provide research and analysis on the implications of any potential change in policy.
Members of the panel will be asked to consider evidence from around the world on the outcomes of various drug policies, and assess the effectiveness of drug laws in the capital, with a specific focus on non-class A drugs.
The announcement was made by Khan as he started a four-day visit to the US to promote investment in London which included a fact-finding mission to Los Angeles to see the impact of the city’s decision to legalise cannabis in 2016.
The Mayor visited a cannabis dispensary and cultivation facility, met licensed retailers and growers and spoke with officials from the Los Angeles Police Department and the city’s local government.
The Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti, said that decriminalisation of cannabis offered “historically marginalised 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.”
Khan said he believed a new approach in the capital 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.”
Cannabis is currently classed as a class B drug in the UK, with a maximum sentence of five years in prison for possession. However, cannabis can be prescribed by specialist doctors for medical use under certain criteria. Earlier in 2022, Khan announced that his office was looking into a pilot decriminalisation scheme, which would see under 25’s offered the opportunity to undertake harm reduction courses instead of being prosecuted for possession of small amounts of drugs.