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  1. Pondlife
    The herbal stimulant khat is to be banned by the government, against the advice of its own Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

    In January the ACMD said khat should remain a legal substance, saying there was "insufficient evidence" it caused health problems.

    But Home Secretary Theresa May has decided to ban it, saying the risks posed could have been underestimated.

    Khat will be treated as a class C drug, like anabolic steroids and ketamine.

    The Home Office said the ban was intended to "protect vulnerable members of our communities" and would be brought in at the "earliest possible opportunity".

    Khat is already banned in most of Europe and in a number of other countries, including the US and Canada.

    The UK's decision to follow suit is based on security and international considerations, in particular concerns the UK could be used as a transit route for khat to other European countries.

    "Failure to take decisive action and change the UK's legislative position on khat would place the UK at a serious risk of becoming a single, regional hub for the illegal onward trafficking," Mrs May said in a statement.

    But campaigners said they were "disappointed and concerned" at the government's decision to reject the advisory council's advice.

    "A more proportionate alternative to banning khat and criminalising its use would have been an import ban or making it a supply offence only as applies, for example, to controlled anabolic steroids," said Martin Barnes from charity Drugscope.

    'Significant social problem'

    Khat is traditionally used by members of the Somali, Yemeni and Ethiopian communities.

    The Home Office commissioned a review by the ACMD and, reporting its results in January, it said chewing khat produced a "mild stimulant effect much less potent than stimulant drugs, such as amphetamine".

    The ACMD found "no evidence" khat, made from leaves and shoots of a shrub cultivated in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and containing the stimulant cathinone, was directly linked with serious or organised crime.

    But the government said on Wednesday that it was concerned that a lack of evidence could have led the ACMD to underestimate the risk to communities posed by the drug.

    Somali groups in the UK had told the ACMD that use of khat was a "significant social problem" and said it caused medical issues and family breakdowns.

    The ACMD said withdrawal symptoms such as tiredness and depression were associated with khat, and recommended that the NHS should educate the public about these where necessary.

    A government spokesman said ministers wanted to allow police officers to use their discretion when dealing with low-level possession offences, much in the same way they approach those carrying cannabis for personal use.

    But repeat and serious offenders would face criminal sanctions, the spokesman added.

    Chief Constable Andy Bliss, speaking for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said "there could be a case" for treating khat possession in this way.

    "A first offence by an adult generally attracts a warning and a second the issuing of a penalty notice, before escalating to arrest and prosecution," he said.

    "We will explore this possibility with the Home Office and with the College of Policing over forthcoming weeks."

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23163017

Comments

  1. Alfa
    It seems like its time for the ACMD members to resign again. What use is it to give advice if its not going to be taken seriously? If the advise is to ban, then its always followed. If the advise is not to ban, then its dismissed. It makes me wonder if the secretary of state will even read the report or just ask for the conclusion. The content has no value this way.
  2. Mindless
    According to the UK government's/Home Office website:
    Khat use seems fairly common in some communities in London, I occasionally use a small amount myself. I am not aware of any criminal activity or damage associated with it's use in my local community. By scheduling khat in the Misuse of Drugs Act the Home Secretary is inviting organised crime into a market they have so far been excluded from. Additionally, many respectable users will become criminals as a result of this decision.

    Theresa May is on record as saying:
    I get the impression that May has 'carefully disregarded the ACMD's advice'. The ACMD's conclusion that there is insufficient evidence of health harms has been gloriously twisted by the Home Office, who make a giant leap in concluding insufficient evidence of physical and social damage means that the real risk may be underestimated. This level of double-talk seems more suited to Huxley's Brave New World than honest government.
  3. Phenoxide
    Don't make khat a class-C drug, MPs urge government

    [IMGR="white"]http://www.drugs-forum.com/photopost/data/671/khatbundles.jpg[/IMGR]Don't make khat a class-C drug, MPs urge government

    The government should reverse its decision to ban the herb khat because it "has not been taken on the basis of evidence or consultation", MPs say.


    Home Secretary Theresa May wants to re-grade the plant, a stimulant popular among Yemeni and Somali communities, as a class-C drug. But the Home Affairs Committee say this is contrary to scientific advice that it causes no social or medical harm.

    The UK could become a khat-trafficking hub if it is not banned, ministers say.

    The home secretary announced in July that the plant would be controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act. This came after the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs concluded in January that it should not be banned, as there was "insufficient evidence" it caused health problems.

    'Potential friction'

    The government's FRANK drugs advice website warns that khat, which is said to give users a feeling of alertness and happiness, can also cause insomnia, high blood pressure and constipation and suppress the appetite.

    But the Home Affairs Committee's chairman, Labour MP Keith Vaz criticised the government's stance, saying: "It is extremely worrying that such an important decision has not been taken on the basis of evidence or consultation.

    "The expert Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs conducted a thorough review of the evidence and concluded that no social or medical harm resulted from the use of khat. We support the advisory council's findings."

    Mr Vaz said the best solution would be to introduce a licensing system for importers as a "middle way" between unregulated trade and an outright ban.

    He added: "The UK should not become a hub for the distribution of illegal khat. It is wrong to place legal importers in the impossible position of choosing between a life of potential hardship or one of crime.

    "It is baffling that potential friction, between already disadvantaged communities and the police, has not been fully considered."

    Mr Vaz also warned that a ban in the UK could result in an increase in membership of the Somali militant group al-Shabab among young men previously employed in the khat trade. About 2,560 tonnes of khat, worth £13.8m, was imported to the UK in 2011-12. It is already banned in most of Europe and in a number of other countries, including the US and Canada.

    Mrs May announced her decision to ban it in July, saying that, otherwise, the UK risked "becoming a single, regional hub for the illegal onward trafficking".

    People caught in possession of a class-C drug can be sentenced to up to two years in prison and face an unlimited fine. Dealing or supplying can mean up to 14 years in jail.

    BBC News
    29th November 2013
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-25141620
  4. Hey :-)
    There's simply no case for banning khat

    Khat is as potent as a strong cup of coffee and has no organised crime involvement – yet the government wants to spend £150m on a ban that would create far more severe problems

    [IMGR=''white'']https://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=38031&stc=1&d=1107388773[/IMGR]There is much debate about drugs policy. Should we continue to follow the criminal justice-led approach that we have tried to date, costing huge amounts of money and achieving little? Or should we move to a health-based approach, such as that used in Portugal, where the focus is on helping people to break their addictions?

    Drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, are of course harmful, whatever their legal status, and our aim should be to reduce the harm caused. I've argued strongly for reform, and an end to the failed war on drugs. I think the general opinion in the UK is heading that way, albeit slowly.

    There is a specific decision to be made right now, however, about a substance called khat. This is a leaf traditionally chewed by people from the Horn of Africa. In the UK, communities from that area still chew it, particularly Somalis, but also Ethiopians, Kenyans and Yemenis among others. It's a mild stimulant – roughly on a par with a strong cup of coffee. It is not considered particularly addictive, and there's no clear evidence that it causes either physical or social harms. It is imported perfectly legally, and taxes are paid on it, to the tune of £12.8m each year.

    When the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, the government's expert advisors, were asked to consider khat, they said that it would be "inappropriate and disproportionate" to ban it. The cross-party home affairs select committee, on which I serve, produced a unanimous report opposing a ban.

    And yet the home secretary plans to do it anyway. On Monday, MPs will be asked to make it a criminal offence to sell, buy, or chew khat.

    The home secretary claims that banning khat will improve people's lives, as they would stop chewing it. However, experience shows that making these substances illegal doesn't stop people consuming them – it just drives the trade underground. Look at prohibition in the US, or cannabis in the UK. Banning things simply doesn't work.

    And even if it did, it is most likely to push people to take other drugs – probably tobacco and alcohol, both of which are more dangerous. When Somalis living in London were surveyed, 90% agreed they would rather their children used khat than alcohol, and 77% would prefer they use khat than cigarettes.

    There is no gang or organised crime currently associated with khat use. When criminalised in other countries, organised crime has, for obvious reasons, stepped in to provide the supply; there's no evidence that demand reduces. In addition, we would be asking the police to enforce a ban that only affects specific ethnic groups – hardly a recipe for good race relations.

    We should also consider the effect of a ban on the area where khat is grown: Meru province in Kenya. I, together with Keith Vaz, chair of the home affairs select committee, met a delegation of Kenyan parliamentarians, who were very alarmed by the prospect of a ban in the UK. A huge amount of employment in that province rests on khat production, and if we simply block sales, many farmers will lose their livelihoods – in a key area vulnerable to recruitment by the militant Islamist group al-Shabaab.

    So a ban is unlikely to help people, but will create an opportunity for organised crime groups to make large profits, as well as promoting terrorist recruitment in Kenya. Moreover, the ban would cost the UK taxpayer a huge amount of money – the government estimates a total net cost of £150m. Not a great deal.

    I and my fellow Lib Dem on the committee, Greg Mulholland, will oppose this ban. The rest of the committee consists of eight Tories, all of whom will be whipped to support it, Jim Shannon of the Democratic Unionist party and seven Labour MPs, who have yet to state a position.

    If any of them believe in evidence-based drugs policy, and want to take a decision that will save money and prevent organised crime, I hope they will join us and stop this disproportionate, expensive and damaging ban.


    By Julian Huppert
    Photograph Simon Maina, AFP, Getty Images; Khat from a farm in Meru, central Kenya
    31 March 2014
    The Guardian
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/31/no-case-ban-khat-organised-crime
  5. MikePatton
    To the best of my understanding the prime concern is extracted cathinone and more concentrated forms of Khat rather than the raw plant material. I'm not saying this is justified, but over here Khat has been legal for decades, untill pills containing Cathinone extracted from the Khat leaves ("Hagigat") became incredibly popular. The government then banned cathinone which was replaced with Methcathinone which was later banned, then with Mephedrone which was banned here in 2003 and later found global popularity, and then MDPV and so on. So the ban on Cathinone only made "Hagigat" pills stronger and more dangerous, and turned them from a Khat concentrate to potent research chemicals, and arguably inspired a new trend that later became known abroad as "Bath salts", "meow-meow", etc.

    So a ban might indeed be counterproductive... In recent years "Khat Juice" became immensely popular, not as strong as "Hagigat" but it quickly became a widely used herbal energy drink, diet aid, and was sold everywhere without restrictions. Then after a couple of years the government all of a sudden banned Khat Juice, without supplying any actual evidence for its harm. This created the absurd situation where Khat is legal, but squeezing juice out of it is manafacturing a dangerous drug, a serious felony. So in this sense, a juicer is considered a drug manufacture tool, which literally has the abillity to turn a legal plant into an illegal narcotic, it's remarkable in it's utter stupidity.

    It should be noted that Khat is a very important plant in Yemen culture, and as Jews from Yemen came to Israel in huge numbers they simply demanded that they"ll be able to bring this plant and use it legally, and they are still the number one consumers of Khat here today. It is not considered mainstream by any means because its recreational value is seen as very little and you have to chew on that disgusting crap for hours to catch a buzz. It is mostly used as a way to pass time, kind of like eating sunflower seeds, and mostly by old Yemen folks.
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