THE POISON GARDEN website      Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 


This free script provided by JavaScript Kit

Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Wednesday 14th May 2014

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
The Hollow Men T S Eliot

That’s two things I haven’t done for a while. First, it’s been over a month since I wrote a piece for this blog and, second, it’s been a long time since I’ve used a quotation as a starting point.

What’s brought about these two is that I thought I should write about the end of the long story of the classification of Catha edulis, khat, under the Misuse of Drugs Act especially since the last two scenes of the drama have gone largely unnoticed.

A Google News search shows that the failure of the attempt to obtain a judicial review of the Home Secretary’s decision was reported only in Kenya  , where growers will be badly affected by the ban. And, though the BBC included reference to it in its preview of the week in parliament, there has been no media coverage of the ‘regret motion’ in the House of Lords debated on Monday.

Catha edulis, khat

For once this means having no choice than to go to the primary source for any information. The verbatim record is available from Hansard though you have to scroll halfway down to 6.16 pm or from They Work for You where the debate has been reproduced in full on its own page.

I’ve said many times that the classification of khat is about Theresa May’s political ambitions rather than the well-being of anybody and the ‘regret motion’ (actually a proposed amendment to the government’s motion to approve the classification) is also about politics. The amendment was moved by a Labour peer. Labour supports the classification but, for political purposes, it has to show that it would have done it better and that was the intention of the amendment.

The debate did, however, give the opportunity for peers completely opposed to the ban to have their say and the contributions for Baroness Hamwee, Baroness Meacher and Lord Rea are worth reading. The last two, in particular, point out the general failure of prohibition. Lord Rea says ‘Banning substances that are widely used has little effect on the level of use’.

That general point, however, was ignored by the government minister in his response to the amendment in favour of focusing on the issue of re-export. He presented recent figures for khat seized in France after being shipped from the UK but, as was pointed out in the debate, he gave no comparative figures to show if this was, truly, an increasing 'problem'.

Catha edulis, khat

Unfortunately, no-one really questioned the two key flaws in the government’s argument. The first is to ask why it takes a different approach to khat than it does to alcohol or pornography. If the UK government is truly concerned about items that are legal here being shipped to countries where they are illegal then it has to act against both those items for the sake of countries like Saudi Arabia or Malaysia.

In any case, the idea that stopping someone from buying a copy of ‘Razzle’ from a corner shop in Rotherham would impact on the smuggling of that same magazine into Riyadh is clearly absurd so why does the government think that banning khat from a grocer’s in south London will affect the trade (if there is any) with the Netherlands?

The government has previously rejected the HASC’s call for the khat trade to be regulated and the government minister was similarly dismissive of proposals to concentrate on controlling supply rather than criminalizing possession when responding to the debate.

And so, as everyone knew beforehand, the amendment failed and the order allowing the classification received its final approval. Implementation will follow, shortly.

The outcome is exactly as was predicted as soon as the incoming government, in 2010, asked the ACMD to look again at khat. There was a lot of concern about the ACMD after Professor David Knut was sacked and several other members resigned. The fear was that the only people willing to serve would be those who knew that they had to find the answers the government wanted. The crumb of good news from this affair is, therefore, that the ACMD ignored the clear signal that the government had an answer in mind when it asked the question and stuck with the evidence leaving the government having to pretend that it knew better.

So, khat will become an illegal substance with all the harm that will cause and I see no chance of its classification being dropped from the Misuse of Drugs Act. That means the focus has to be on bringing about the repeal of the MDA itself because, although this new ban on khat will harm both users and non-users, in numerical terms they are a minority of those harmed by drug policy based on moral prejudice and political posturing.  


Full Entries


Tuesday 25th October 2016
Saturday 20th August 2016
Sunday 6th March 2016
Wednesday 3rd February 2016


Saturday 28th November 2015
Friday 27th November 2015
Monday 17th August 2015
Wednesday 15th July 2015
Friday 26th June 2015
Thursday 25th June 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Wednesday 11th March 2015
Tuesday 3rd March 2015
Saturday 28th February 2015
Sunday 22nd February 2015

November 2014

Monday 24th November 2014
Saturday 8th November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

Wednesday 24th September 2014
Monday 1st September 2014

August 2014

Tuesday 26th August 2014
Saturday 16th August 2014
Tuesday 5th August 2014
Friday 1st August 2014

July 2014

Sunday 27th July 2014
Wednesday 23rd July 2014
Sunday 13th July 2014
Sunday 6th July 2014
Tuesday 1st July 2014

June 2014

Wednesday 25th June 2014
Tuesday 24th June 2014
Sunday 22nd June 2014
Monday 9th June 2014
Wednesday 4th June 2014

May 2014

Monday 26th May 2014
Sunday 18th May 2014
Wednesday 14th May 2014

April 2014

Sunday 13th April 2014
Saturday 5th April 2014
Thursday 3rd April 2014
Tuesday 1st April 2014

March 2014

Monday 31st March 2014
Tuesday 25th March 2014
Friday 21st March 2014
Monday 17th March 2014
Sunday 16th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Thursday 6th March 2014
Wednesday 5th March 2014
Saturday 1st March 2014

February 2014

Thursday 27th February 2014
Monday 24th February 2014
Wednesday 19th February 2014
Monday 17th February 2014
Thursday 13th February 2014
Monday 4th February 2014
Monday 3rd February 2014
Saturday 1st February 2014

January 2014

Thursday 28th January 2014
Thursday 23rd January 2014
Friday 17th January 2014
Wednesday 15th January 2014
Monday 13th January 2014
Thursday 9th January 2014
Tuesday 7th January 2014
Wednesday 1st January 2014

December 2013

Monday 23rd December 2013
Friday 20th December 2013
Tuesday 17th December 2013
Friday 14th December 2013
Thursday 12th December 2013
Sunday 8th December 2013
Wednesday 4th December 2013
Sunday 1st December 2013

November 2013

Friday 29th November 2013
Wednesday 27th November 2013
Tuesday 26th November 2013
Friday 22nd November 2013
Monday 18th November 2013
Friday 15th November 2013
Thursday 14th November 2013
Sunday 10th November 2013
Thursday 7th November 2013
Wednesday 6th November 2013
Friday 1st November 2013

October 2013

Thursday 31st October 2013
Sunday 27th October 2013
Wednesday 23rd October 2013
Monday 21st October 2013
Friday 18th October 2013
Friday 11th October 2013
Wednesday 9th October 2013
Tuesday 8th October 2013
Monday 7th October 2013
Tuesday 1st October 2013

September 2013

Monday 30th September 2013
Saturday 28th September 2013
Friday 27th September 2013
Monday 23rd September 2013
Sunday 15th September 2013
Monday 9th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

August 2013

Sunday 8th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

Tuesday 27th August 2013
Sunday 25th August 2013
Monday 19th August 2013
Friday 16th August 2013
Tuesday 13th August 2013
Friday 9th August 2013
Friday 2nd August 2013
Thursday 1st August 2013

July 2013

Saturday 27th July 2013
Sunday 21st July 2013
Wednesday 17th July 2013
Monday 15th July 2013
Saturday 13th July 2013
Friday 12th July 2013
Thursday 11th July 2013
Wednesday 10th July 2013
Tuesday 9th July 2013
Saturday 6th July 2013

June 2013

Friday 28th June 2013
Tuesday 25th June 2013
Friday 21st June 2013
Thursday 20th June 2013
Wednesday 19th June 2013
Saturday 15th June 2013
Sunday 9th June 2013
Saturday 8th June 2013
Saturday 1st June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012 blog

June 2012 blog

May 2012 blog

April 2012 blog

March 2012 blog

February 2012 blog

January 2012 blog

December 2011 blog

November 2011 blog

October 2011 blog

September 2011 blog

August 2011 blog

July 2011 blog

June 2011 blog


The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.