Ignoring drug advisors, the UK will ban khat

BBC News

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.

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




Remember David Nutt got sacked for telling the truth?

These politicians don't want to hear the facts, it's all about point scoring with the general public for the next election.
Why is there even a thing with khat? Its really only used by african migrants right?
As in there is really no abuse of it in anyway way, why are we even talking about it?
Here's the text from the letter the ACMD sent to the Home Secretary:

23 January 2013

Dear Home Secretary,

Thank you for your previous correspondence in which the Minister responsible
for Drugs requested, on behalf of Government, that the ACMD review khat,
specifically concerning its societal harms. As you are aware, it was agreed with
the Home Office the review was necessarily deferred due to competing work
priorities. The ACMD has now completed its review and has pleasure in
submitting the attached for your consideration.

The ACMD has been inclusive in its gathering of the evidence to provide this
comprehensive review. The ACMD recognises the concerns that have been
raised around the social harms of khat and has therefore gone to lengths to
ensure the various sources of this evidence have been collected. As well as peer
review articles, surveys and other sources of information on social harms, the
ACMD has undertaken community BME visits and has had discussions with
Council leaders, as well as requesting information from Government bodies, to
ensure the ACMD understood, captured and addressed the relevant concerns.
The ACMD last provided you with advice on khat in 2005.

The ACMD‘s present assessment that you commissioned builds on the evidence base of the 2005
report, particularly societal harms. In summary, the evidence shows that khat has no direct causal link to adverse medical effects, other than a small number of reports of an association between khat use and significant liver toxicity.

Some of the adverse outcomes are associated with khat use i.e. a complex
interaction of khat with other factors to produce the outcome, but not directly
caused by khat use.

It is apparent from the evidence on societal harms that it is often difficult to
disentangle whether khat is the source of community problems or, to some
extent, its prevalence and use is symptomatic of the problems for some
individuals and groups within the community.

On the basis of the available evidence, the overwhelming majority of Council
members consider that khat should not be controlled under the Misuse of Drugs
Act 1971. In summary the reason for this is that, save for the issue of liver
toxicity, although there may be a correlation or association between the use of
khat and various negative social indicators, it is not possible to conclude that
there is any causal link. The ACMD considers that the evidence of harms
associated with the use of khat is insufficient to justify control and it would be
inappropriate and disproportionate to classify khat under the Misuse of Drugs Act
1971. In summary the ACMD considers that the harms of khat does not reach
the level required for classification. Therefore, the ACMD recommend that the
status of khat is not changed.

We hope there will be close attention paid to the ACMD‘s further
recommendations, which all have our unanimous support. It is essential that
communities be supported and given the appropriate resource and environment
within which they can manage issues e.g. to support integration and address
inequalities of health. A multi agency approach, requiring cross departmental
consideration, will be essential to address the wider community issues that are
well referenced in this report.

Our recommendations are based on a rigorous and systematic process of
evidence gathering and subsequent analysis of what was submitted and
presented to the ACMD. We would welcome discussing our findings with you.
Hope to see a new wave of resignations from the ACMD.

Considering David Cameron's past cannabis use, and his wife's fondness of raving, I sometimes wonder if the government's drug policy is actually a strawman troll to get people to rise up in protest.

Has the Home Office actually ignored the ACMD's advice this blatantly before?

Update: Here is some text from the Chairman of London Somali Youth Forum. One of the nutters who pushed for this legisation...

Abukar says...
4:30am Sun 30 Jun 13

As a Chairman of London Somali Youth Forum I would like to take the opportunity to encourage the Home Secretary, Theresa May to continue with her plans to ban Khat in the United Kingdom. Over the past five years as a youth activists and a Local Government civil servant, I have witnessed the direct and unintended consequences of Khat use in the United Kingdom.

In a recent article, Professor David Nutt, chair of the Independent Scientific Commitee on Drugs has commented on the banning of Khat and has accepted the relative harms associated with Khat use, following investigation from expert advisors.
Although I respect the views of scientist, I would like to bring their attention to the fact that any drug that is associated with low/high level of harm has devastating consequence for our Somali community and youths. It may be low level harm to the scientist, however, the community, welfare departments, health agencies and the third sector have to pick up the pieces and respond to impacts of Khat use on family life, economy and wellbeing of our citizens.

I would like to encourage the Home Secretary and the Coalition Government not to bow down to any pressure from, what Cyril Connolly (renown reformist) once called The Enemies of Promise. For our community, youths and Somali Professionals, this is issue is fight against outdated cultural ideology, ignorance, poverty of aspirations, a struggle to unlock the potential opportunities of over community so that they can take their rightful position in our economy as citizens.

I make my conclusion from our direct involvement and experience with our communities/youths and we feel the Coalition Government should continue with its plans to ban Khat on the following grounds:

Impact on family life:

It is widely accepted that the issue of Khat has indirectly caused family breakdowns in Somali families and this historical lack of stable home coupled with absence fathers (leadership) means that a young Somali youth growing up in London is becoming ever harder, forcing a majority to turn to khat use as a tool for escapism, inevitability impacting on their life chances to compete and progress in life. As a Forum, we genuinely subscribe to the aims and notion or policies of Every Child Matters. As a result, we would fully support a ban on the use and availability of Khat, which is destroying the life chances of our children, cementing their place in a life of misery and wasted human capital for generations.

Loss Generation:

I would like to take the opportunity to underline the impact Khat use is having on Somali youths in London. It is arguable that the issue was just isolated to older Somali men who regularly chewed the substance. However, that trend has now changed where young Somali now form a growing and alarming number of Khat users, affecting their prospects, health and stability at home. As a youth activist and a strong campaigner for the progress of our youths, I find it astonishing that the issue is now trickling down to our first/second generation Somali youths, some languishing in mental health institutions and others wasted on the wilderness of benefit dependency with no aspiration for progress. As I pass through outside Khat stations in around London, and I speak to young people, I am witnessing the collective deteriation of our youths, which will ultimately result in a lost generation.

Community Integration/cohesion and Economic Empowerment

As we strive to promote tolerance, integration and progress for our youths, we, as a Forum, feel the issue of Khat availability and use is hampering our efforts to work for a common good so that our youths that have been affected by the issue take appropriate steps to be part of our society as productive citizens. However, previous subsequent delays, debates and lack of political will to tackle this issue effectively mean our work is even harder. The issue further defeats the objectives of recent Government Welfare Reforms. For example, the Work Programme from Department for Work and Pensions require people on benefits to make serious steps and efforts in finding work and employment training. However, the experience I have seen show that the readily availability of khat is having the opposite effect on the success of such programmes because the intended target group are not in a position to wake up for such employment training/work due to the heavy use of Khat the nights before.

In many ways, I sense this is an already transformative Coalition Government that is bold and I would like to inform the Government that Somali youths, community/mothers and professionals are fully behind such ban, because this about unlocking their potential as citizens, removing barriers to progress. The Community and the Nation expects.
Although I respect the views of scientist, I would like to bring their attention to the fact that any drug that is associated with low/high level of harm has devastating consequence for our Somali community and youths.
Alcohol says "Hi".
but in khat house the terrorists are grooming the young drug out the head with ideas of 75 virgins and the likes :)
Ban qat? Theresa May might as well ban cats

David Nutt
Wednesday 3 July 2013 14.50 BST

With reader comments

A simple analogy shows how absurd the basis for the home secretary's drug prohibition plan really is.

Now this is embarrassing. I'm expected to have something to say about Theresa May's intention to ban the plant-drug qat, but due to a texting error by a new intern, I'd been preparing my thoughts on the Tory plan to ban cats, a plan which I now learn may not exist. Fortunately for her, I find that many of the same arguments apply, so I'm not quite back at square one.
23536;11666444 said:
^is that a misquote? That sentence makes no sense.
Was taken straight from Edgarshade's post quoting the leader of the Somali Youth Forum. Basically, it's saying that whilst he respects the ACMD's scientific opinion, any drug that causes "societal harm" regardless of it being small or great should be banned.
Mercc96;11666266 said:
Why is there even a thing with khat? Its really only used by african migrants right?
As in there is really no abuse of it in anyway way, why are we even talking about it?
Doesn't that story sound familiar to you? Does Marijuana ring a bell to you?
^ So you think this is about racial discrimination?

I wonder if part it has to do with how pharmaceutical companies always want to have the monopoly on certain chemicals... Wasn't khat banned in the US around the same time certain pharm companies took patents out on newly synthesized cathinones?

edit: Looking now at the histories of Khat and synthesized cathinones, I can see no strong correlation between syntheses/patents/approvals and the banning of Khat and methcathinone. I was grabbing at straws, evidently :\
exists;11667107 said:
^ So you think this is about racial discrimination?
I'd say not entirely, but it's a significant factor. It's not widely used at all outside of the Somali/Yemeni communities. The "public health" excuse has been blasted out of the water by their own advisors. All this is going to do is criminalise minorities.

Theresa May's head is so far up her own arse, she's looking at her tonsils.
Tenchi;11667189 said:
I'd say not entirely, but it's a significant factor. It's not widely used at all outside of the Somali/Yemeni communities. The "public health" excuse has been blasted out of the water by their own advisors. All this is going to do is criminalise minorities.
Based on the information I could find on the subject, I'd say that if it's not being banned for racial reasons then the true reason is indeed a real mystery.

Check out this article from earlier today:

What Is Khat, and Why Is It Banned?

By Marc Lallanilla, Assistant Editor
Date: 03 July 2013 Time: 02:00 PM ET

The British government has decided to ban the import and use of khat, after years of turning a blind eye to the herbal stimulant.

As recently as January 2013, the U.K. Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs had declared there is "insufficient evidence" that khat causes any serious health effects, the BBC reports.

The decision, announced today (July 3), has many outside the khat-using community wondering was exactly khat is, and why its use was allowed in the U.K. and elsewhere for so long. [Trippy Tales: The History of 8 Hallucinogens]

Khat is a flowering evergreen shrub native to East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. The plant (Catha edulis) contains two alkaloids, cathinone and cathine, that act as stimulants.

Users simply chew the green khat leaves, keeping a ball of partially chewed leaves against the inside of their cheek (not unlike chewing tobacco).

The dried leaves can also be used, though they have less potency. Some khat users also smoke the drug, make it into tea or sprinkle it on food.

An ancient tradition

Use of khat has been a tradition for centuries throughout Somalia, Yemen and Ethiopia, where khat cafes ("mafrishes") are often found. Khat leaves are chewed by students before exams, in the morning before work or at social gatherings, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Khat (also known as qat, qaad, Arabian tea, kat and chat) is compared to other amphetamines by authorities like the Drug Enforcement Administration. Khat users report feelings of well-being, mental alertness, excitement and euphoria.

Though khat is generally described as a mild stimulant, there is consistent evidence of overuse and addiction. Long-term use or abuse has been linked to "insomnia, anorexia, gastric disorders, depression, liver damage" and heart attack, according to a 2009 study from the Austrian medical journal Wiener klinische Wochenschrift.

"Manic and delusional behavior, violence, suicidal depression, hallucinations, paranoia and khat-induced psychosis have also been reported," the study authors wrote.

Immigrants spread khat use

As immigrants from East Africa and the Middle East have settled in communities throughout Europe and North America, they have brought their tradition of khat with them, causing some friction between khat users and law enforcement officials.

In Canada, the United States and most of Europe, khat is a controlled substance, often placed in the same category as cocaine. Traditional users of khat, however, balk at that association.

"It is a very touchy subject. Some people see it like a drug; some people see it like coffee," Abdulaziz Kamus, president of the African Resource Center in Washington, D.C., told the Times "You have to understand our background and understand the significance of it in our community."

"It is definitely not like coffee," Garrison Courtney, spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration, told the Times. "It is the same drug used by young kids who go out and shoot people in Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan. It is something that gives you a heightened sense of invincibility."

Indeed, many experts believe the drug is linked to violence in Somalia. A 2007 study from PLoS Medicine found that more than 36 percent of Somali combatants had used khat during the prior week — and khat use was believed to be even higher than that in some regions of the war-torn country, the study authors noted.

Is khat funding terrorism?

In Western Europe, there are concerns that the sale of khat is used to fund terrorism. Last year...
cont. http://www.livescience.com/37948-what-is-khat-cathinone.html

According to Wikipedia:

However, amongst communities in the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia) and the Arabian Peninsula, khat chewing has a long history as a social custom dating back thousands of years.[1]
Thousands of years of use, and yet the societies using it are still around and are decent enough people for us to let them into our countries as immigrants.

I fear that by banning a product with so much cultural use, a central tradition will be lost among the people who it means the most to. Would those who are trying to ban khat be very pleased if you took away their tea (or coffee)?
exists said:
I fear that by banning a product with so much cultural use, a central tradition will be lost among the people who it means the most to. Would those who are trying to ban khat be very pleased if you took away their tea (or coffee)?
Or their post-debate pint of beer? After all, the argument for why alcohol remains legal is that it's "ingrained in the culture".
I remember reading a while a go that when mephedrone (m kat) came out many news reports were saying it was synthesis from khat so I reckon that's the real reason why it's banned
I wonder what kind of effect this is going to have on the source countries. The UK imports huge amounts of this stuff daily. Some African farmers are going to be in bad way after this. It takes 30-40 years to grow premium quality khat trees.