This week Sadiq Khan announced further details of his long-awaited London drugs commission – a key election pledge of last year’s London Mayoral campaign. Khan – who used a visit to an LA cannabis dispensary to announce the details – revealed that the commission will be headed up by Lord Falconer, former Chair of the Labour Campaign for Drug Policy Reform.
The commission will work in partnership with UCL to explore alternative approaches to drugs. It will focus on cannabis. Whilst the legalisation of cannabis is outside the scope of the Mayor’s remit, there are a number of feasible policy solutions to tackle issues related to drugs in London, which are implementable.
2019 polling published by the Evening Standard shows that drug reform in the capital is a vote winner – with just under two thirds of Londoners backing legalisation. Since the beginning of 2019, momentum has increased for drug reform in London. Khan chose this moment to finally get his colors on the mast.
The Telegraph reported that Khan was looking into a pilot program proposed by Lewisham Mayor Damien Egan. It was based upon a report I wrote. City Hall published a report containing bold recommendations for addressing the capital’s drug problems just a few months later.
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Fast forward to this week, Khan has fulfilled his promise. Whilst the news has been met with palpable excitement in the capital, the same cannot be said for the Home Secretary, and even some of Khan’s Labour’s colleagues.
Leaked messages, published in the ‘I’, highlighted some dismay from Labour Shadow Ministers such as Wes Streeting. These messages, and a much-maligned digital election poster attacking the Lib Dems for their drugs policies, provokes the questions – where do Labour really stand on drugs?
The Leader of the Opposition’s Office (LOTO) has been keen to emphasise that Starmer, former Director of Prosecutions, is “tough on crime” and “does not believe in changing our drug laws”. However, it is inconceivable that Starmer was not aware of Khan’s announcement and has yet to comment on the development.
Shadow Ministers including David Lammy, Thangam Debbonaire and Jeff Smith are all on record as being in favour of drug policy reform, and Khan’s Commission Chair Lord Falconer stepped out of the Shadow Cabinet earlier this year.
Despite differences in opinion among key figures within the party, this doesn’t mean Labour are at the war and Labour don’t have to take a common position on drugs throughout the country. While Shadow Ministers have to follow the Labour line of thought, local councils as well as mayors are free and open to making positive changes under the Labour banner.