Little more than a week into his premiership, Boris Johnson has tapped Blair Gibbs, one of the United Kingdom’s leading advocates of cannabis legalization, for a top post as special adviser on crime and justice policy. Since last November, Gibbs has worked as a senior policy advisor with the London-based industry group Centre For Medicinal Cannabis. But now, Gibbs will step down from his consulting and advisory role with the Centre to join the Johnson administration on August 12.
Will Gibbs Reshape Tory Prime Minister’s Conservative Stance on Cannabis?
The appointment of Blair Gibbs to the post of special adviser on crime and justice policy puts a long-time cannabis reform and legalization advocate in a key position close to the UK’s new prime minister. But in his own political career, Johnson has adopted a very conservative stance against cannabis. Previously, Johnson admitted to smoking “quite a few spliffs” in his teenage years, saying “it was jolly nice.” Now, however, the Conservative Tory says he’s “become very illiberal about it.”
At the moment, it’s unclear to what extent Gibbs will be able to shift Johnson’s attitude on cannabis legalization. It’s possible that Johnson appointed Gibbs to the important post in his administration because the two have a history of working together. When Johnson was mayor of London, Gibbs served as his adviser on policing. Gibbs also advised another conservative member of Parliament whom Johnson has tapped to serve in his cabinet, Michael Grove.
But Gibbs isn’t the only appointee to Johnson’s administration who supports cannabis legalization. The Prime Minister’s new political secretary, Danny Kruger, has also publicly called for ending cannabis prohibition. In 2017, Kruger penned an article for the Spectator which read, “A brave step would be to commission a report looking at the impact on young people‘s wellbeing of drugs—including the effect of illegality, and the potential for a regulated market.”
Gibbs Brings Years of Cannabis Industry Experience to New PM’s Administration
If the UK’s new prime minister wants to commission a report like the one Kruger called for in 2017, Gibbs is definitely the right person for the job. During his tenure at the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, Gibbs was the lead author of the report, “Medicinal Cannabis in the UK: A Blueprint for Reform.” He also authored a report calling for more strictly regulating the market for cannabidiol (CBD), which is legal in the UK.
Gibbs’ expertise was also crucial to efforts that led to the legalization of cannabis in Canada, according to the Centre. Now, Gibbs is looking to bring that expertise and experience to reform efforts in the UK. “The objective now is to get the British government to concede that cannabis is not dangerous and has established health benefits for some patients,” Gibbs wrote in a post for the website Conservative Home.
In the UK, political views on medical cannabis legalization don’t necessarily hew to the conservative/liberal binary. And among the public, support for legalization is at an all-time high. But despite appointing two cannabis reform advocates to his cabinet, a spokesperson for the new PM has tried to distance the administration from the strong views of Gibbs and Kruger, saying they do not reflect government policy.