I haven't had a drugs rant for a while, so - Tactical Ninja
Oct. 11th, 2013
09:12 am - I haven't had a drugs rant for a while, so
This morning I was thinking about which English-speaking Western nation has the stupidest government. It wasn't an easy call.
There's Australia, which just elected climate change denier, unrepentant misogynist and all-round wanker Tony Abbott for Prime Minister.
There's Canada, whose increasingly conservative government has just rejected UN recommendations regarding human rights (I don't know a lot about what's up in Canada tbh, but there's loads of Canadians read this - what's the dumbest thing you think your government has done lately?)
There's New Zealand, whose government just started trying to sell off state assets against the wishes of its people, only now the power company concerned is buying back its own shares because they are trading lower than expected.* The government, of course, is denying that this is an act of desperation.
There's the US, whose government isn't even working at the moment and has forced over 2 million people into temporary paylessness because they can't agree on a budget, an argument based almost entirely in ideology because the conservatives fear Teh Socialism. Top tip: Obamacare is not socialism. I wouldn't even call it centrist. It's not even a shadow of what socialised healthcare looks like and if it was, it'd serve the people a whole lot better than the current system. But you knew that.
Without a doubt, the US government is currently taking the cake in terms of catastrophically bullheaded ridiculousness.
This isn't on the scale of putting 2 million people on the breadline, but as far as ridiculously stupid things to do, it's up there.
So earlier this year, the UK Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs was asked by the government it exists to advise, what to do about khat. Here is some information about khat for those who care. Essentially it's a mild stimulant in the form of a leaf that is chewed traditionally in some North/East African countries. It's most commonly used among immigrant communities in Britain in the same way. While there has been some concern over its use by members of those communities, problematic use and other harm is not high and the ACMD recommended not scheduling it.
In a move of monumental stupidity, the UK government overrode that advice and decided to ban it anyway, claiming terrorism and the fact that other countries have done it as reasons for its decisions. Yes, you read that right. Terrorism. From what I understand, quite a lot of coffee farmers in Ethiopia have started growing khat instead of coffee lately, but that wasn't to fund terrorism, it was because the coffee market is so bloody unstable due to the influence of Western speculation on coffee as a commodity on the stock exchange.
Anyway, so now the UK government wants advice from the ACMD on what schedule khat should be given. And this morning I got an email from David Nutt's outfit, the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, pointing out that because khat has no recognised medical use, the ACMD is pretty much obliged to advise that khat go into Schedule 1 - the schedule that carries the highest penalties for possession, use, cultivation and supply.
So we have this relatively harmless drug that has a long history of traditional use among a particular community. This community is well-known as a margnalised group within the UK - and it's very well established within research that marginalised groups are the most vulnerable to the harms associated with problematic drug use. It's currently causing a small amount of concern within the community, because with the high unemployment rate the rate of problematic khat use is also higher - folks with lots of time on their hands and nothing to do, etc etc.
Then the substance is banned, and placed in a schedule which requires extremely punitive measures to be inflicted on anyone who has anything to do with it - even carrying it around in their pocket suddenly becomes fraught with ongoing social harm. And members of this already marginalised group of people will start getting raided, arrested and thrown in jail. And we all know how much Brits love to employ, support and otherwise include Somalian immigrants with prison records, don't we?
So my question to the UK government is, how will this decrease the amount of harm suffered within the community?
And my answer is - it won't. It'll make it worse.
Because focusing on prohibition of substances isn't a well-known method used by governments to marginalise particular ethnic groups, noooooo....
Oh, except for, you know, opium, marijuana, peyote, crack, and now khat.
So yeah, the UK government gets my vote for the Stupid, Racist Fuckers of the Week award.
* Expected by the government that is, pretty much everyone else knew it was a stupid idea.