Things are beginning to take shape as regards cannabis reform in the UK a few months after the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan stopped the persecution of cannabis possession. At the moment, the Mayor has established a commission with the responsibility of decriminalizing cannabis in the UK.
Following the latest report from BBC, the board will be led by Lord Charlie Falconer QC, a former secretary of justice in the UK. As it stands the commission is dubbed the London Drug Commission.
After visiting California to evaluate a cannabis dispensary, Khan was truly impressed by what he saw. However, Priti Patel, London’s Home Secretary has noted that Khan’s efforts do not hold water as he doesn’t have the power to legalize drugs. According to Patel, these drugs have ruined communities, destroyed lives, and torn families apart.
Khan in his response to the Home Secretary affirmed that there’s the need to have an open and honest conversation about the history of cannabis and cannabis laws in the UK. Khan also believes that the conversation should also involve the health consequences as regards the community. He believes the best approach towards this will be through the drug commission that has just been set up.
While listening to the experts offer deeper insight, seeing it and experiencing it for oneself, learning about the herb on the field is a different experience….Khan explained
What the commission will do
After proper and in-depth research has been conducted by the commission, adequate proposals will be given to the government, City Hall, the justice system, public health services, and law enforcement. Also, if there’s a need for policy change, a proper evaluation of the effects of such changes will be provided by the University College London.
It’s important to note that medical cannabis use has been legalized in England since 2018, however, cannabis is still classified under Class B drugs. This means possession of cannabis holds a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment and/or an endless fine. Individuals who cultivate and distribute cannabis, face a maximum of 14 years imprisonment, an endless fine, or both.
In some cases, the penalties faced by arrested persons vary depending on the quantity of cannabis found in possession. Factors such as previous criminal records, where the drugs were found and other mitigating factors are also considered. In several cases, police also issue a fine of £90 on the spot for individuals caught in possession of cannabis.
According to a parliamentary report, possession of cannabis is the number one drug offense in Wales and England in 2021.
No support from Khan’s party
The Labour Party in the United Kingdom has stated that Khan’s initiative regarding cannabis reform will not be receiving any support from them. The party believes that it is not the Mayor’s duty to push for drug policy as that is the responsibility of the national government.
Meanwhile, Steve Rolles, a policy analyst at the Transform Drug Policy Foundation during an interview with BBC Radio London aired his opinion. He believes that it would be best for the United Kingdom if they could study Uruguay, Mexico, and various countries that have decriminalized cannabis. Rolles affirmed that her UK will surely learn from these countries.
Similar to what Khan noted, Rolles, affirmed that the Uk’s cannabis policy has not worked out. The policy is not stopping youths from cannabis use and it continues to criminalize these young adults, especially black males. Rolles also pointed out that while the policy proves not to be effective it has also caused the just system so much money.
Therefore, a new perspective is due and like other countries have moved forward to decriminalize it, the UK can learn from their experiences.
Are Londoners in support of legalizing cannabis?
According to a survey carried out by the Evening Standard in 2019, it was revealed that about 63% of Londoners would back the regulation and legalization of marijuana. However, on a broader scale, about 47% of people residing in the UK would support cannabis legalization.
The survey was carried out as part of the marijuana debate campaign organized by the Evening Standard.
The survey revealed that the economic implications of legalizing marijuana persuaded most (72%) to give their support to cannabis reform. The fact remains that if cannabis is legalized, £2.5 billion will be redirected into the regular economy from the criminal circles.
In addition to this, 68% of the respondents were also persuaded by the argument that the government would be able to regulate cannabis potency. 66% of the respondents were also motivated by the idea that regulating cannabis would reduce violence.
Now, the 420 traditions have grown in London with cannabis users gathering at Hyde Park on the 20th of April, campaigning for cannabis legalization.
According to data made available by the Office for National Statistics, approximately 2.6 million residing in the UK consumed cannabis in 2020. This was the year the covid pandemic struck leaving everyone except essential workers stuck at home.
A common ground
A common ground both the home secretary and the mayor of London stand on is that drugs are ruining lives and communities and propelling violence. Priti Patel is also right to make it clear that the mayor has no legislative authority to effect cannabis reform. Only the Parliament has the authority to effect such changes.
As it stands, a lot of Londoners may reason with the home secretary that it might turn out to be a wasted effort for the mayor. Many believe establishing the drug commission is also a waste of public funds which should be diverted to fighting drug crime.
On the other hand, the mayor believes the issue of drug crimes could be tackled more effectively. He also expressed his disappointment that any other approach aside from enforcement is considered soft against crime.
The just established London Drugs Commission will likely be able to collect strong evidence that will support a change in approach. If so, that will greatly influence future policymaking and considerations. However, changes in legislation will not be happening soonest.