THE POISON GARDEN website      Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 

Search thepoisongarden.co.uk:

This free script provided by JavaScript Kit

Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Friday 18th January 2013

Yesterday, I wrote about the issues, specific to Catha edulis, khat, that are of concern if the UK government announces, next week, that the plant is to be scheduled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

The decision will not, however, be based solely on khat itself but will be taken in the context of the wider situation concerning psychoactive substances both legal and illegal. It is impossible, of course, for me to be able to measure the weight that will be given to the various aspects of the decision but, overall, I fear the government will favour prohibition.

Catha edulis, khat

That fear is based on the Prime Minister’s reaction to the Home Affairs Select Committee(HASC) report on drug policy. Though he didn’t actually use them, the words attributed to James Callaghan, ‘Crisis, what crisis?’, have become the lasting legacy of his time in office. I wonder if the same will happen to David Cameron’s statement ‘We have a [drugs] policy which actually is working in Britain’.1

Anyone who thinks that is blind to the various calls, from a diversity of sources, for the harms caused by current policy to be addressed. Doing nothing is, of course, the easy choice. It needs a brave politician to lead change and bravery is not something Cameron knows very much about.

The inertia of the status quo is huge and the BBC’s reporting of the expected announcement on khat is a good example of that2. Headlined ‘Khat ban calls ahead of government report’ it quotes those calling for a ban and you have to wait until the 24th paragraph for Dr Axel Klein to be quoted saying that a ban would be counter-productive.

There is no doubt that the case for reform is being expressed much more frequently. Since December 2012, in addition to the HASC report, we’ve seen the release on YouTube (for a limited run) of Breaking the Taboo, the UK release of ‘The House I Live In’,  a report3 from The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform on New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) calling for regulation and decriminalisation of existing illegal substances as a means of slowing the development of new NPS, and a report from the British Medical Association (BMA)4 on the need to deal with problem drug use as a health issue that points out the additional harms done by prohibition.

Catha edulis, khat

I just want to mention a couple of things that struck me from those last two items. The APPG report makes a number of recommendations but the one that I think is important to the khat debate says;

‘That the ACMD become an independent decision making body. The organisation would oversee risk analyses; coordinate the research they need; and make decisions on a scientific basis as to the correct classification for each drug, beginning with new psychoactive substances. Politicians would focus on the political decisions concerning the roles of treatment and criminal penalties, and the levels of penalties to be applied.’

In other words, if the ACMD says there is no need to schedule khat, that should be the end of the matter.

The other thing that struck me was in the BMA document. (Full disclosure – it is 341 pages so I haven’t read it all). It notes that ‘There is a shortage of robust evidence relating to the benefits of the present prohibitionist framework in terms of deterring use or reducing availability’ but goes on to note that for some people ‘the lack of research into the effects of criminalising illicit drug use and possession does not, in itself, lead to the position that new or amended regulations are required’.

The reason I find that comment so interesting is that the report begins by acknowledging the assistance provided by Professor Neil McKeganey and Professor Robin Room. Professor McKeganey is, of course, one of those who does not let a lack of research showing that prohibition works prevent him from continuing to promote it. In a piece in the Scotsman about the APPG report5, he echoes Cameron’s position that all is fine and no change is needed before setting up the usual strawmen about regulation.

Catha edulis, khat

There is undoubtedly an increase in calls for a change to drug policy and those calls are also increasingly being made in the mainstream media.6,7 Simon Jenkins asks if the PM has got the guts to make changes and it may be that David Cameron will try and show bravery by ignoring the calls for a ban on khat and following the evidence.

Away from drug policy, it may be much wider political considerations that produce the final decision. Following the ‘half-term report’ from the PM and Deputy PM on the progress of the UK’s coalition government, it was inevitable that the media would look for issues where that coalition is most fragile. On Europe, for example, Cameron has clearly moved to placate his right-wing at the expense of support from the Lib-Dems. Nick Clegg and the other Lib-Dem ministers should all be opposed to scheduling Catha edulis so it could be that Cameron will throw them a political bone by agreeing with them on what, in the overall political spectrum, is a fairly trivial matter. 

 

Full Entries

2016

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

2015

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



IMPORTANT NOTE

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