Today, Catha edulis, khat, becomes a Class C substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (MDA). It has taken nearly a year for the classification to take effect after the announcement, last July, that led me to destroy my own plants and video their destruction.
You might ask why, if the classification is as necessary as Home Secretary Theresa May claims, it has taken this time to implement the decision. If khat is harmful then May has willingly allowed more harm to be done by not acting faster. But, asking that question is to suggest that there is any logic in the decision and there is not.
I’ve said all along that khat users and the communities around them were being exploited by Theresa May as a way of boosting her right-wing credentials in the hope of taking over as Conservative party leader. Last week’s row between her and Education Secretary Michael Gove over alleged radicalisation in schools was reported as a succession struggle between the two so I’m glad that there is a wider recognition that May’s only interest is in herself.
This ought to be a sad day for anyone who believes a more sensible approach to drug policy is long overdue but I think there is a way to see it positively. It is such an inappropriate way to deal with the situation that it has produced a widespread reaction from many quarters not just the main reform organisations and supporters.
When we see the harmful consequences of the move, and we will, I think that will lead to a greater realisation that prohibition is the most harmful way to address the problems associated with the small number of problem substance users.
I’m well aware that I’m open to a charge of hypocrisy. I’ve condemned May for exploiting the Somali and Yemeni communities to further her broader ambitions and now I’m saying I hope the harm done to those communities will advance the cause of reform.
That’s a regrettable position to find myself in but, since I can’t do anything directly to prevent those communities suffering, in the short-term, I have to hope that the suffering will be so immediate and so obvious that it brings the prohibition of khat to an early end.
I don’t believe that khat will ever be removed from classification under the MDA but I do think today’s implementation of May’s hateful policy will accelerate the repeal of the MDA itself.
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