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Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary Says London Cannot Decriminalize Cannabis

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Back in mid-May the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, launched a commission to explore London’s cannabis policies. The ‘London Drugs Commission,’ as it is referred to, is chaired by Lord Charlie Falconer QC, a former lord chancellor and justice secretary. Reviewing London’s cannabis policies was one of Mayor Khan’s pledges during his re-election campaign.

One of the specific public policy components that was heavily reported as being in Mayor Khan’s crosshairs is cannabis decriminalization. People in London support a change in cannabis enforcement in London per a YouGov poll that we previously reported on earlier this month.

“New YouGov data finds that Londoners support decriminalising cannabis within the boundaries of the capital by 50% to 33%. However opinion is divided across party lines, with 64% of the capital’s Labour voters supporting such a move compared to only 34% of Conservative voters.” YouGov stated at the time.

Unfortunately, at least some leaders within the Labour Party seem to have failed to look at the polling data, or at the very least disregarded it, as they are pushing back against any changes in cannabis policy and enforcement in London. The latest example of that comes from Steve Reed, the Labour’s Party’s shadow justice secretary. Per Eastern Eye:

Steve Reed said that the party would not look to decriminalise or legalise any recreational drugs, and Khan will not be given powers to do so, reported The Telegraph. He added that Labour will not allow Khan to turn London into a ‘drug supermarket’.

“Khan is entitled to his view, but mayors will not be responsible under this government or under a Labour government for that policy. So he can express whatever he likes, but he’ll never have the opportunity to do it under a Labour government because we won’t be liberalising drugs laws,” Reed was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.

“He’s contributing to a debate, but he won’t have the power to do anything about it, however that comes about.”

According to media reports, Mayor Khan wants to implement a similar pilot program that was created by the Thames Valley police in which young adults caught with a personal amount of cannabis undergo classes or counseling instead of being arrested and prosecuted.

Forcing young people into classes or counseling for personal cannabis possession in itself is not ideal, however, it’s definitely not an enforcement approach that should be categorized as seeking to “turn London into a drug supermarket.”

As the potential government showdown continues to develop in the United Kingdom it is worth keeping an eye on the situation, as it could have ramifications for the national cannabis policy discussion in addition to the ongoing local discussion.