Select Committee criticises Home Office for failing to consult on khat ban

The Home Affairs select committee is today calling on the home secretary to rethink her decision to ban khat – a plant which has a stimulant effect when chewed – and warns that the decision has “not been taken on the basis of evidence or consultation”.

Photoshot (Only for use by, for use contact Photoshot at 0207 421 6002)

By Winnie.Agbonlahor

29 Nov 2013

The committee today published a report warning that the decision could harm relationships between the UK and Kenya, where the plant is primarily produced.

It also says that controlling khat (pictured above) as a class C drug, along with cannabis, would be “disproportionate”, as the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) concluded that “khat has no direct causal link to adverse medical effects”.

Committee chair, Keith Vaz, said: “It is extremely worrying that such an important decision has not been taken on the basis of evidence or consultation.”

He also warned that the ban of khat, which is consumed mainly among the Somali, Yemeni and Ethiopian communities, will lead to “friction, between already disadvantaged communities and the police” and added that it is “baffling” that this has “not been fully considered”.

Theresa May announced in July that the government will control khat under the Misuse of Drugs Act 197,1 to bring the UK in line with most EU states as well as most of the G8 countries, including Canada and the USA, where khat is banned.

She added that failure to control the drug “would place the UK at a serious risk of becoming a single, regional hub for the illegal onward trafficking of khat to these countries”.

But while Vaz agreed that “the UK should not become a hub for the distribution of illegal khat”, he said that “the best solution is the introduction of a licensing system for importers as a middle way between unregulated trade and an outright ban”.

The committee’s report also warns of the risk of black markets as well as khat-users turning to other, more harmful substances in search of a replacement.

Khat is chewed in a social setting, typically at home, at parties and in khat cafes. The plant is native to Africa and the Middle East and is cultivated commercially in Ethiopia, Kenya and Yemen.

An estimated 90,000 people use khat in the UK, according to the report. Between 2,500 and 2,800 tonnes are imported into the UK every year, bringing in around £2.5m in tax revenue.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Banning khat in the UK will protect the public from risks associated with its misuse. It will also prevent Britain from becoming a single, regional hub for criminals trying to make a profit as countries across Europe have implemented the same ban.”

Share this page