So, that’s it, at least as far as the UK parliament is concerned. On Monday afternoon, the Delegated Legislation Committee (DLC) voted 16-2 to endorse Theresa May’s decision to classify Catha edulis, khat, under the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA).
The DLC has no statutory power in that it cannot force reconsideration of a ministerial decision. It is essentially a rubber-stamping body that just shows that ministers aren’t using their delegated powers without some oversight. The role of the DLC means that a ‘No’ vote would have been a pretty remarkable event and it may be that the Labour MPs on the committee didn’t consider khat to be important enough to justify the furore that would have followed rejection of May’s decision.
The change in classification will now go before the full House of Commons but will be nodded through without any further attempt to stop it. The classification will take effect sometime in May. I don’t know what the situation is regarding the legal challenge being made by the largest khat importer with the backing of the Kenyan government. Unless that process results in judicial review then khat will be a harmful drug in the eyes of the law until such time as the MDA itself ceases to be.
It is worth repeating the closed loop thinking of prohibitionists to justify my describing khat as a harmful drug. Drugs are classified under the MDA because they are harmful. And the way to know that a drug is harmful is if it is classified under the MDA.
I’ve said before that this decision is all about politics and has nothing to do with any interest in the well-being of the Somali and Yemeni Diasporas. Maybe I’ve watched too many political dramas but I think even Monday’s vote has a political spin to it.
Labour members of the Home Affairs Select Committee, including the Chair, Keith Vaz MP, said the ban was wrong so why didn’t the Labour members of the DLC vote against it? Was it because they didn’t think the interests of ethnic minority communities were important enough to cause a parliamentary upset? Or, was it that they knew a ‘No’ vote would weaken Theresa May? Looked at from the perspective of overall party politics, a strong Theresa May creates a problem for the Prime Minister, David Cameron, because the fewer apparently credible alternative leaders there are, the easier is the life of the current leader.
The UK government is about to make illegal a substance that is far less harmful than caffeine and, it appears to me, it is doing so because political infighting trumps the health and wellbeing of poorer citizens who are less likely to get their voices heard.
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