Khat - Home Affairs Committee Contents

5  Conclusions

20. The decision to control khat was based not on any evidence of medical or social harm caused by its consumption, but by a desire to avoid the UK becoming a hub for the illegal importation of khat into other EU countries. It is clearly not in the UK's national interests for the country to be used as a base of operations by international organised crime however, the Government must acknowledge that the ban itself has the potential to do harm to some of the most marginalised communities in the UK. A balance of the two scenarios is, therefore, the best alternative.

21. The ACMD concluded that the social problems within the UK's Somali community that were sometimes attributed to khat—primarily unemployment and low-level public disorder—were likely to be attributable to a range of socio-economic variables, including potential lack of support in integration, the damaging effects of civil war, family fragmentation, displacement in seeking settlement outside home countries and evolving gender relations through the diaspora.[27] We recommend that the Home Office publish a unified strategy for addressing the multiple disadvantages faced by the Somali diaspora in the UK, drawing on the areas identified by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and previous research in this area.

22. The classification of khat has the potential to create tensions between the police and the communities in which khat is consumed. This has the potential to affect a wide range of policing areas, from neighbourhood policing to counter-terrorism operations. We recommend that the Home Office establish a framework for evaluating the impact of the khat ban on police/community relations, including recording the frequency with which on-street police powers such as stop and search are used; the number of arrests, out-of-court disposals and convictions for khat-related offences; and community attitudes to the police. Data should be published annually.

23. We recommend that evidence presented by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs be given a more comprehensive Government response and used more extensively in the Secretary of State's decision-making process, and that the ACMD should be allowed to review annually decisions taken by the Secretary of State with a view to recommending whether the control should be removed, retained or moved to another class.

24. There is a risk that the UK Government's decision to ban the supply and consumption of a natural, comparatively harmless and hitherto perfectly legal stimulant, could have a disproportionate impact on Meru County in Kenya. We recommend that the Government enter into urgent discussions with the Kenyan Government and international aid agencies to understand the impact of the UK's khat ban on khat-growing areas, and stand ready to delay or reverse its proposed ban if necessary in order to prevent any negative impact.

An alternative approach

25. The challenge for the Home Secretary is to reconcile the best available evidence, which suggests that no medical or social harm arises from the consumption of khat, with the need to ensure that the UK's approach to khat does not lead to us becoming a hub for an illicit trade in khat in neighbouring countries. For the UK to allow free trade in a substance which is banned throughout northern Europe could create serious law enforcement problems. On the other hand, to ban the possession and consumption of khat completely is a disproportionate move which also has the potential to do harm: causing friction between the police and the relevant ethnic-minority communities and potentially leading users to switch to more harmful intoxicants. A licensing system for imports, such as the one operated in Australia, would provide a means for regulating to the international trade in khat without penalising consumers or introducing any of the various undesirable consequences which flow from prohibition. We recommend that the Government introduce a scheme for licensing the importation of khat to the United Kingdom, instead of controlling khat under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

27   ACMD Report, p. 57 Back

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Prepared 29 November 2013