'Ban this legal street drug'
A STREET drug popular with the Somali community in Hayes is fuelling anti-social behaviour in the area, according to a community leader.
The chairman of the Hayes Town Partnership, David Brough, has written to the Government to demand a change in law to ban khat. The powerful stimulant is illegal in most of Europe, America and Canada.
Mr Brough fears the drug is growing more popular and has been linked to acts of violence.
People who live in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian peninsula have traditionally chewed the green leaves of the plant.
Somalis living in Britain have continued to use the drug, but critics fear it is responsible for fuelling crime.
In Hayes the drug is popular with immigrants from countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia and the Yemen.
Khat is believed to be highly addictive and has been linked to increased anger, insomnia, paranoia and domestic violence.
In his letter to the Home Office, Mr Brough said: "We are also w orried about the associated drugs culture that young males are getting drawn into as a result of khat houses.
"We have a number of these in Hayes Town and in addition to the direct effects on those involved they also produce inter-community tensions because of the prevalence of large numbers of people congregating in residential areas and committing acts of anti-social behaviour."
The matter has been brought up with the police, but they are powerless to act unless a change is made to the drug's legal status.
It is not just African communities who use the drug; many users from all social backgrounds are feared to be experimenting with it because it is not against the law.
Home Office spokesman Richard Mullins said in reply to Mr Brough: "The Government recognises that there continues to be growing concern in communities affected by khat use, in particular the social problems associated with its use, including unemployment, family breakdown and financial hardship.
"The Government is committed to having a response that is current and appropriate."
The Government is currently researching the effects of the drug.
A decision on whether to ban the drug will be made by the end of the year.
Oct 7 2009 By Dan Coombs, Uxbridge Gazette