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Stimulant Khat Banned In United Kingdom

The ban sent khat businesses both at home and abroad scrambling for ways to make up the loss of income.

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Wiki Commons

By McCarton Ackerman

06/25/14

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A plant-based stimulant from Somalia has been given Class C status in Britain, making the drug illegal in the UK.

The ban on the stimulant known as khat went into effect yesterday, despite the fact that official advisers for the UK government determined that the drug should not have any classification. But Home Secretary Theresa May noted that despite the recommendation of the Advisory Council on Misuse of Drugs, their findings had an “absence of robust evidence.” She also cited that all of Northern Europe, in addition to the U.S. and Canada, have also banned the drug.

Khat is typically chewed and gives users feelings of being more alert, talkative, and happy after taking it. A government minister said the ban on khat will keep the UK from becoming a hub to traffic the drug to other countries where it is also illegal. The effects of the ban are being felt both locally and internationally. Thirty businesses in the city of Bristol which sold khat reported they may have to close, while Somalian khat exporters have said the sudden ban has left them scrambling to find a new way to feed their families.

Danny Kushlick, director of Transform Drug Policy Foundation, a charitable think tank campaigning for the legal regulation of drugs, said it was unclear why the British government is singling out the stimulant. "Yet again the government has ignored the advice of its experts and prohibited another drug," he said. "As ever, it will serve to create a new income stream for organized crime. At the same time it will unnecessarily criminalize a minority group of Somalis and Yemenis, and deprive producers overseas of much needed legitimate revenue."

Those found with khat for personal use will be fined roughly $100, while those caught trying to distribute could receive a jail sentence of up to 14 years.

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