London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced a plan to study the legalization of cannabis on Wednesday after visiting a dispensary and cultivation facility as part of an official visit to Los Angeles. Khan said that he was forming a commission to study cannabis legalization and named a prominent Labour Party official to head the panel.
Khan walked among growing cannabis plants and was introduced to the wide variety of products available at licensed cannabis dispensaries. The London mayor said that the commission he was appointing would examine the effectiveness of the city’s drug laws and explore how legalizing pot could help reduce “drug-related harm.”
“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,” Khan said. “That’s why I am in LA to see first-hand the approach they have taken to cannabis.”
The commission will gather evidence on cannabis legalization from around the world and will study the public health benefits of cannabis, the best methods to prevent misuse, and effective law enforcement strategies. The panel will make recommendations to City Hall and government officials, law enforcement, and public health officials. More appointments to the commission will be announced this summer. The London Drugs Commission is not expected to make its first report until next year.
London Mayor Tours Legal Cannabis Facility
Khan was escorted on the tour of the facility by representatives of the regulated cannabis industry and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Khan’s aides noted that regulated pot has generated millions of dollars in tax revenue for Los Angeles while providing economic opportunities for business owners and workers.
“The decriminalization and legalization of cannabis offers historically marginalized communities opportunities for healing, entrepreneurship, and wealth creation in this growing industry,” Garcetti said. “Cities have so much to learn from one another, and I applaud Mayor Khan’s thoughtful approach as London moves forward.”
Khan announced that he had appointed Lord Falconer, the former Lord Chancellor in Tony Blair’s government and a current member of the Labour Party’s shadow cabinet, to lead the commission tasked with studying issues surrounding the potential legalization of cannabis in London. Although the city government does not have the power to unilaterally legalize pot, Khan hopes the work of the commission will spur conversation on cannabis policy reform. He plans to bring lessons learned from his visit to Los Angeles, which was one stop on a four-day trade mission to the United States, back to London to help inform the discussion on the issue.
“We must learn from others when considering our approach, and by examining the latest evidence from around the world and the world-class research from UCL, Lord Falconer and the commission will make recommendations to improve our approach to cannabis to help tackle drug-related crime, protect Londoners’ health and reduce the huge damage that illegal drugs cause to our communities,” said Khan.
Previously, Khan admitted to using cannabis while on a party trip to Amsterdam.
“I was young once and I’m not a prude,” he told reporters in 2018. “And I did inhale as well.”
Exploring Cannabis Policy Reform
The London delegation also met with representatives of the Los Angeles Police Department, city officials, and health experts to get additional perspectives on cannabis legalization and regulation issues. Khan has been exploring cannabis policy reform since 2019, when he called for a national review of cannabis policy and law enforcement after a spate of violent crimes linked to illicit drugs.
“It is a real opportunity for there to be a thorough look at the effectiveness of our drugs laws and policy on cannabis,” said Lord Falconer. “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.”
But news of Khan’s commission was not received well back in the United Kingdom. Home Secretary Priti Patel, a member of the ruling Conservative Party, slammed the London mayor’s plans to decriminalize cannabis.
“Sadiq Khan’s time would be better spent focusing on knife and drug crime in London,” Patel said, as quoted by the Daily Mail. “The Mayor has no powers to legalize drugs. They ruin communities, tear apart families and destroy lives.”
Khan will also have to gain the support of the leadership of his own party if cannabis legalization in the U.K. is to become a reality. Party head Keir Starmer would likely oppose efforts at policy reform.
“Labour does not support changing the law on drugs,” said a spokesperson for the party. “Drugs policy is not devolved to mayors and under Labour would continue to be set by national government.”