Home Secretary Theresa May faced a revolt last night after one of her own Ministers refused to implement a drugs ban.
Liberal Democrat Drugs Minister Norman Baker is defying Mrs May’s order to criminalise khat, a plant chewed to give users a high and used predominantly in East African immigrant communities.
Mr Baker – who once said cannabis was ‘no more harmful than alcohol or tobacco’ – has told Mrs May he disagrees with her plan to ban the substance, and flatly refused to act on it.
His rebellion has forced Mrs May to strip him of responsibility for enforcing the ban and give it to Organised Crime Minister Karen Bradley, a Tory who holds more hardline views.
Mr Baker’s refusal is a demonstration of his political rift with Mrs May, who was said to be ‘spitting tacks’ at the Lib Dem’s appointment to her department last autumn.
He is distinctly to her Left on a number of issues, including immigration controls and ‘snooping’ powers.
Mrs May is planning to categorise khat as a class C drug, which would make its importation, possession and supply a criminal offence. She last week rejected calls for a rethink from the Home Affairs Committee, whose chair, Labour MP Keith Vaz, has spoken of chewing khat in the past.
It argued there was no compelling evidence the drug was harmful – and police would risk ‘antagonism’ when targeting communities which use it.
Some experts, however, have linked khat to depression, irritability, psychotic episodes and violence…