Cannabis reform is sweeping the European continent, with at least one country now a legal jurisdiction for adult use. Late last year Malta became the first country in Europe to pass an adult-use legalization measure.
Italy was on track to possibly legalize cannabis this year after activists gathered and submitted over 630,000 signatures in an attempt to put legalization in front of voters. Unfortunately, even though the effort proved to have gathered enough valid signatures Italy’s government stopped the effort in its tracks, claiming that it was unconstitutional to let it proceed.
Cannabis legalization pilot programs are starting to spread across Europe. Copenhagen already has a program underway and the pilot program is set to expand across Denmark as more jurisdictions sign up. Switzerland is launching its first pilot program site in Basel this summer, and hopefully by 2023, the Netherlands will do the same.
Germany’s governing coalition previously announced plans to legalize cannabis in the near future, and last week Germany’s Health Minister announced that the timeline for legalization would be sped up with legalization possibly coming as soon as this summer.
In the midst of all of the momentum for cannabis reform on the continent one country that has moved almost as slow as any other nation is the United Kingdom. The UK’s medical cannabis program is extremely limited and has only helped a minor fraction of the number of suffering patients that exist in the UK. Recreational cannabis possession and use remain prohibited.
London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, announced this week that a commission will be launched to explore, among other things, cannabis policy reform. Per The Guardian:
Sadiq Khan has announced a commission to examine the effectiveness of the UK’s drug laws, with a particular focus on those governing cannabis.
The London drugs commission, to be chaired by Lord Charlie Falconer QC, a former lord chancellor and justice secretary, was one of Khan’s manifesto pledges in his re-election bid last year.
The mayor of London’s office said a panel of independent experts in criminal justice, public health, politics, community relations and academia will be assembled to consider evidence from around the world on the outcomes of various drug policies.
The announcement was made while Khan was in Los Angeles where he toured a cannabis cultivation facility. The announcement of the commission yielded swift pushback from the Home Secretary of the United Kingdom Priti Patel. Per The Times:
The home secretary has criticised the mayor of London after he set up a commission to consider the decriminalisation of cannabis.
Priti Patel told Sadiq Kahn that he “has no powers to legalise drugs”.
“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,” Patel said in a tweet.
For starters, the War on Drugs ruins communities, tears apart families, and destroys lives. That is a fact. It is also a fact that the War on Drugs has failed, both in the United Kingdom and beyond. Patel’s tweet obviously disregards those facts.
Secondly, as I understand it, what Khan has proposed is essentially a fact-finding commission, not a commission that will actually seek to change policies. I suppose that it could evolve to a point where that is being pursued, however, that does not appear to be the case right now.
What does appear to be the case, at least in my opinion, is that Patel and other like-minded officials are probably scared of what the commission will potentially find and publish. It’s much easier for Patel and others to peddle reefer madness rhetoric without the existence of a commission like the one that Khan is launching.