Will cannabis be legal in the UK, could it be decriminalised and how does it compare to the US? – Evening Standard
The Mayor of London made the announcement after visiting a cannabis factory in Los Angeles while on tour in the US.
Mr Khan 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 drugs laws.
“That’s why I am in LA to see first-hand the approach they have taken to cannabis.”
Although City Hall cannot change the criminal law, it could influence the debate on the effectiveness of UK drug laws.
So what has Sadiq Khan said about legalising cannabis in the past and what is current law?
Is cannabis illegal in the UK?
In the UK, cannabis is a class B drug.
People found in possession of cannabis can face up to five years in prison, and an unlimited fine, or both, while people who supply and produce cannabis can face up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both.
The penalty some face for possessing cannabis will depend on how much of it they had, where they and the drugs were found, their personal history (such as any previous crimes), and any other aggravating or mitigating factors.
Police can also issue a warning or an on the spot fine of £90 to people caught with cannabis.
What has the Mayor of London said about decriminalising cannabis?
In January 2022, it was reported that there were plans for a new pilot scheme that would decriminalise cannabis in certain London boroughs.
The pilot would involve offering speeding course-style classes or counselling to young people caught with small amounts of cannabis in Lewisham,Greenwich, and Bexley, instead of them facing arrest.
A City Hall spokesperson said at the time that the Mayor’s office was “actively involved in discussions around this scheme”.
Mr Khan told the Standard that no final decision on funding had been taken but said he was “in favour of diversionary policies”.
A spokesperson said: “We know that we’ll never be able to simply arrest our way out of the problem, which is why we continue to work on schemes that provide young people with support and education, rather than simply putting them through the criminal justice system – with the aim of diverting them away from drug use and crime for good.”
However, a spokesperson also denied that the proposed pilot would decriminalise cannabis, as the Mayor of London does not have the power to do so.
What has the government said about decriminalising cannabis?
In January, around the time of the reports of the pilot scheme in London, the government said that it has “no intention to decriminalise drugs in any way.”
A spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We have said many times that illegal drugs destroy lives and fuel violence.
“We have absolutely no intention of decriminalising dangerous and harmful substances for recreational use.
“Decriminalisation would leave organised criminals in control while risking an increase in drug use, which drives crime and violence, which blights our streets and we made that clear in our drug strategy.”
Fifteen Tory MPs called on Sadiq Khan to block City Hall support for the pilot scheme.
What do Londoners think about legalising cannabis?
In 2019, the Evening Standard found that 63% of Londoners would support legalisation and regulation of cannabis, compared to 47% of people country-wide.
The survey was part of the Evening Standard’s “cannabis debate” campaign.
It found that 72% of people in the UK were persuaded by economic factors–particularly the fact that legalising cannabis would take £2.5 billion from criminal circles and into the regular economy.
Additionally, 68% of people were motivated by the argument that the authorities would be able to regulate the strength and limit the potency, while 66% were compelled by the idea it would lead to less violence.
Every year on April 20, smokers gather in London’s Hyde Park to celebrate 420 Day and to campaign for the legalisation of cannabis.
How was cannabis legalised in the US?
Cannabis is still illegal on a federal level in the U.S., but many states have their own laws permitting the drug for either medicinal or recreational use.
Cannabis used to be legal in the U.S., but states began banning the drug in the early 20th century, with 29 states banning it between 1916 and 1931, according to The Motley Fool.
But states began legalising cannabis towards the end of the 20th century, with California becoming the first state to decriminalise it in 1996.
Medicinal marijuana was then permitted across a number of states, before Washington and Colorado legalised recreational cannabis in 2012.
More than 30 states had permitted the use of cannabis in some form by 2019.
In which states is cannabis legal?
Recreational cannabis is legal in the following states:
- New Mexico
- New York
- New Jersey
- Washington D.C.
Medicinal cannabis is legal in the following states:
- Georgia (Low THC products)
- Iowa (CBD)
- Kansas (Low THC)
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina (Low THC)
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
- Tennessee (Low THC)
- Texas (Low THC)
- West Virginia
- Wisconsin (CBD)
- Wyoming (CBD)
Cannabis of all kinds is illegal in the following states:
- South Carolina