The mayor of London is currently on a trip to the US promoting the British capital as a tourist hotspot, and has visited Los Angeles (LA) to examine the city’s approach to cannabis rules.
While on the trip, the mayor announced that Lord Charlie Falconer QC, a Labour peer and former justice secretary, would head up the London Drugs Commission.
He said: “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 drug laws.
“That’s why I am here in L.A. to see first-hand the approach they have taken to cannabis.”
While Sophie Linden, deputy mayor for policing and crime, added: “It’s vital we do everything we can to reduce the harm and misery caused by the illegal drugs industry in London.”
However, the proposals have already met with criticism from the government.
Home secretary Priti Patel said: “Sadiq Khan’s time would be better spent focusing on knife and drug crime in London.
“The mayor has no powers to legalise drugs. They ruin communities, tear apart families and destroy lives.”
Mr Khan committed to examining laws on controlled substances in his election manifesto.
City Hall said cannabis arrests in LA dropped by 56% after legalisation, while felony arrests fell by 74%.
The London Drugs Commission will be made up of independent experts in criminal justice, public health, politics, community relations and academia, and include specialist research from University College London (UCL) on the implications of any potential changes in policy.
It will then make recommendations to City Hall, government, the police and health services.
The commission will not consider Class A drugs, and the full list of members is yet to be announced.
In 2020, England and Wales reported 4,561 deaths related to drug poisoning in 2020 - the highest number since records began.
Lord Falconer said: “It is a real opportunity for there to be a thorough look at the effectiveness of our drugs laws and policy on cannabis.
“We need rigorously to identify what is the best approach to reduce harm to our communities.
“A national debate is long overdue.”
And LA mayor Eric Garcetti welcomed the move, adding: “The decriminalisation and legalisation of cannabis offers historically marginalised communities opportunities for healing, entrepreneurship, and wealth creation in this growing industry.
“Cities have so much to learn from one another, and I applaud mayor Khan’s thoughtful approach as London moves forward.”
The state of California legalised cannabis for medical use in 1996; for adults to use, possess, gift and grow the drug in 2016; and for adults to buy for recreational use in 2018.
Sales are lawful only from licenced dispensaries and public use remains illegal.