Sadiq Khan has an 'open mind' and is 'eager' to debate decriminalising cannabis in UK

12 May 2022, 01:21 | Updated: 12 May 2022, 17:48

Sadiq Khan says he has an "open mind" and is "eager" to debate whether or not the use of cannabis should be decriminalised in the UK.

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Speaking to LBC's Tom Swarbrick, Mr Khan said: "There are many areas where we haven't got the power to change the laws but we can influence the government and lobby them.

"I think one of the things we've got to do is to have an open mind about these issues.

"I've got an open mind – I've not got a view either way on whether we should maintain the status quo or decriminalise cannabis – but I'm eager to have this debate.

"Let's wait and see what the commission concludes – they may all recommend that the status quo is fine – that'll be a body of evidence we can then give to whichever party is in government."

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan walks through cannabis plants which are being legally cultivated in the US
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan walks through cannabis plants which are being legally cultivated in the US. Picture: Alamy

The Mayor announced the chair of the first ever London Drugs Commission on Wednesday, which will focus on how effective the capital's drug laws are in combating cannabis use.

Former Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Lord Charlie Falconer QC will take on the new role.

The Mayor of London is in Los Angeles exploring the impact the legalisation of cannabis has had on the city since 2016.

He visited a cannabis dispensary and cultivation facility on Wednesday, meeting with key police, local government and public health officials, as well as retailers and growers.

Cannabis arrests in California dropped by 56 per cent after it became legal to use, possess and grow in 2016.

A total of 6,065 cannabis arrests took place in 2017, compared to 13,810 arrests in 2016.

Felony arrests for cannabis fell by 74 per cent, from 2,086 in 2017 to 7,949 in 2016.

The commission, which will not consider Class A drugs, will gather evidence from around the world on approaches taken to cannabis and make policy recommendations.

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Mr Khan explained that he had learnt of several advantages to decriminalising cannabis while in LA.

"I was impressed by the tax revenues being raised by this being decriminalised," he said.

"The city is making – through taxes – a lot of money which can be used for good purposes."

He also added that the drug had been made safer due to regulations around it being sold.

Sadiq Khan touring the cannabis cultivator Traditional in LA.
Sadiq Khan touring the cannabis cultivator Traditional in LA. Picture: LBC

Mr Khan earlier said: "We must learn from others when considering our approach... 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."

Lord Falconer said: "We need rigorously to identify what is the best approach to reduce harm to our communities. A national debate is long overdue."

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, added: "Cities have so much to learn from one another, and I applaud Mayor Khan’s thoughtful approach as London moves forward."

England and Wales reported 4,561 deaths related to drug poisoning in 2020 - the highest number since records began.

Mr Khan is on a four-day trip to the US to support London's economic recovery from the pandemic and promote the capital to international visitors.

Priti Patel has hit back at London mayor Sadiq Khan's plan to consider whether cannabis should be decriminalised in the UK, saying he has "no powers to legalise drugs".

The Home Secretary said Mr Khan's time would "be better spent" focusing on tackling crime in the capital after he announced he was launching a commission to assess the effectiveness of UK drug laws.

Labour distanced itself from the plans, with a spokesman saying the party "does not support changing the law on drugs".

He added: "Drugs policy is not devolved to mayors and under Labour would continue to be set by national government."