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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

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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.

*cough*

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.

Comments:

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From:siobhan63
Date:October 10th, 2013 11:28 pm (UTC)
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I could spend the next year listing the idiotic things Canada's Conservative gov't has done since it first came to power back in 2006, but that would be boring. So I'll counter with a drugs story, since it's the main topic of this post.

The Gov't of Canada was ordered by the courts (before the Cons came to power) to provide medical marijuana. So now some Canadians can get approved to legally purchase medical pot, which is grown by a private company for Health Canada and shipped out to those licensed Canadians (including my husband). However, last year, the gov't was taken to court because while medical marijuana is legal here, it's really really difficult to get a permit - so some people who'd not been able to get approved because they couldn't find a doctor willing to sign the forms decided to sue the gov't. The court ruled that unless the gov't found a way to open up access to the program, they'd basically strike down all existing laws prohibiting pot - so people could just buy it from any source whether or not they had a MM permit. The gov't had 3 months to do something. So they decided to appeal, and at the same time, revamped the pot program. The new rules coming into effect now loosen up the rules re: who can sign the papers for a pot permit. It used to be it had to be a specialist for the medical condition for which you wanted the pot. E.g. if it was because you had cancer and wanted the pot to combat pain/nausea caused by the treatments, it had to be your oncologist who signed the forms, not your family doctor. In my husband's case, because it's for his aspergers and anxiety, it had to be a psychiatrist, etc. Now any doctor and even NURSES will be able to sign the forms. Problem is, that won't necessarily open up access since the Canadian Medical Association has basically advised its members to NOT sign medical pot forms on the grounds its benefits are not scientifically proven. That was the problem the people behind the original lawsuit were having - they couldn't find a doctor willing to sign the forms. That situation probably won't change.

The other change they're bringing in is that the gov't doesn't want to sell pot anymore, so they're handing out licenses to companies to grow it and all the permit holders will have to buy from them instead. Prices will be higher too. The gov't stuff is currently $5/g. The new prices are probably going to start at about $9/g. A lot of people who have the permits can't currently afford the gov't stuff because they're on welfare due to their condition not allowing them to work. The old pot program allowed them to grow their own or get someone else to grow stuff for them at prices they could afford. That will now be illegal - all the independent growers will have their licenses revoked. So again, the changes will probably limit access or force people with permits to seek cheaper (illegal) sources.

The new leader of our Liberal party is advocating legalisation, and of course the Contards are all over that saying he wants to sell drugs to kids and the usual bullshit right-wing arguments against pot legalisation.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 10th, 2013 11:32 pm (UTC)
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NZ's response to any suggestion of medical marijuana becoming available here?

LALALALALALALANOTLISTENINGLALALALALA!

;-/

But yeah, that does seem a strange way to go about it. Luckily, the chances are that the medical benefits for certain conditions from marijuana are likely to be proven pretty soon.
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From:siobhan63
Date:October 10th, 2013 11:45 pm (UTC)
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This government has never let annoying things like "science" and "facts" get in the way of its policy-making.

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/09/16/stand-up-for-science-protests-harper_n_3936992.html

Edited at 2013-10-10 11:47 pm (UTC)
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From:richaarde
Date:October 11th, 2013 03:03 am (UTC)
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If a khat abuse problem explodes where no such problems existed before, everyone will know why. We're watching you, Britain.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 11th, 2013 08:14 pm (UTC)
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Seriously one of the stupidest bannings ever.
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From:tcpip
Date:October 11th, 2013 04:01 am (UTC)
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The advanced anglophone world is a just a little bit silly when it comes to politics at the moment.

BTW, is there is a mailing list address for the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs? I would like to subscribe...
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From:tatjna
Date:October 11th, 2013 08:15 pm (UTC)
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Here you go.
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From:thesecondcircle
Date:October 11th, 2013 04:20 am (UTC)
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I know the we Americans have the reputation for being extremely self centered and egotistical, but there's no way we can not win this. Our government is so stupid that not only can they not keep themselves open for business, they are threatening to take out their own economy as well as a number of others because 2 dozen baby politicians think that the whole concept of government is Bed. This is epic stupidity.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 11th, 2013 08:15 pm (UTC)
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I think you're right. American politics without any sense of rationality at the moment.
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From:malchienne
Date:October 11th, 2013 04:50 am (UTC)
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thank you for the rant. I feel better informed and you make tons of sense.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 11th, 2013 08:16 pm (UTC)
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Aww, thank you. ;-)
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From:strude1
Date:October 11th, 2013 05:43 am (UTC)
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I wonder when we'll hear about kava abuse amongst our melanesian communities :)
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From:tatjna
Date:October 11th, 2013 08:17 pm (UTC)
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Probably as soon as the moral panic about legal highs slows down a bit.

I believe it actually has been looked at, but I think it was put in the same category as salvia - ie, obviously not a party drug, doesn't seem all that fun, so there are no children to freak out about and therefore they'll leave it alone.
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From:nick_101
Date:October 11th, 2013 05:49 am (UTC)
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Yep, I do agree on most of your rants, especially the government shutdown of the U.S. It's stupid that politicians can't make up their differences and get a budget done. They're acting much worse than Schwarzenegger-era California. :/
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From:tatjna
Date:October 11th, 2013 08:18 pm (UTC)
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I just don't get how these people are ok with that large a chunk of their population simply not getting paid, no matter what they disagree about - surely they understand that no pay - no economy.
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From:t_c_da
Date:October 13th, 2013 10:23 pm (UTC)
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surely they understand that no pay - no economy.

Apparently not since the Great Financial Crash of 2008. If they knew they would done things quite differently, rather like Iceland did...
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From:gemmagic
Date:October 11th, 2013 09:41 am (UTC)
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Thank you for this rant. I'm so ashamed that Australia voted for Tony Abbott and I'm getting really sick of all the casual racism, homophobia and sexism that I keep seeing online and hearing in person. So the UK can win this round, but I think Australia and its government are still in the fight.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 11th, 2013 08:18 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I get a bit of culture shock every time I go to Australia with the level of casual racism and sexism I notice there. And Tony Abbott will do nothing to improve that.
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From:nessainwe
Date:October 11th, 2013 12:59 pm (UTC)
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I absolutely hate the Canadian PM Harper.. because of him I lost my job..

He has no understanding for how important history is - next to wanting to take it out of learning in high school and also taking away a lot of money from the archives of Canada. That was a domino effect and eventually caused me to lose my job and now struggle to get a new one.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 11th, 2013 08:19 pm (UTC)
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I am told he's the worst PM Canada has had for years.
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From:nessainwe
Date:October 11th, 2013 08:31 pm (UTC)
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I could go on for days the reasons I hate that man, but choose not to. By far on of Canada's worst though.
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From:kotturinn
Date:October 11th, 2013 01:17 pm (UTC)
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As a UK-er whose head is more often than not in her hands over governmental policies I can only apologise for the muppets. All of them, government and 'opposition'.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 11th, 2013 08:19 pm (UTC)
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I think all the countries listed have people wanting to apologise to the world for their governments at the moment.
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From:c_maxx
Date:October 11th, 2013 03:37 pm (UTC)
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Agree with your assessment of the new US healthcare system.

It is nothing but corporate welfare. "What, we have to buy insurance?"
This is better than the oil companies have it; we can always ride a bicycle.

And some groups are attempting to preempt alternative selfcare, such as herbal remedies, etc.

Why is there not a single-payer system!
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From:tatjna
Date:October 11th, 2013 08:21 pm (UTC)
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Apparently because ideology trumps evidence in the minds of politicians in your country.

Wait, that's the case in most countries. We are just lucky that the people here have actually experienced socialised healthcare and wouldn't vote in a government that wanted to privatise the health system.
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From:goffburd
Date:October 12th, 2013 01:11 am (UTC)
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There are soooooo many reasons why the UK government are the worst. I hate them with a vengeance. Oh, for a Guy Fawkes that could do the job properly...!
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From:t_c_da
Date:October 13th, 2013 10:27 pm (UTC)
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I rather thought that Tom Clancy had the right idea - crash a 747 into the Capitol while both houses were in session...

(with a nod to "Debt of Honor")
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From:goffburd
Date:October 14th, 2013 03:30 pm (UTC)
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In London we need a modern day Guy Fawkes, but one that isn't discovered until after he blows up the Houses of Parliament - preferably with mainly only conservatives in it.

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