Press release: 23 June 2014
On Tuesday 24 June khat will be made illegal and become a Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, making it illegal to import, sell and possess.
Last year, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, the body responsible for providing the government with expert advice on drugs, produced a detailed report on the social and health harms of khat in the UK. It concluded:
“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 November 2013 The Home Affairs Select Committee concluded:
“It is clear that the regulation of the khat trade is an option that other countries have used and is something that could be implemented in the UK.”
Stephen Williams, Lib Dem MP for Bristol West, has spoken out against the ban and has indicated that the Liberal Democrats opposed the move. In July 2013 he said:
“As a Liberal Democrat I have always supported a science-led approach to drugs and as such I cannot support the move to ban khat. The Government’s own experts reviewed khat and concluded that it should not be criminalised. I do not advocate the use of khat, which has been known to have negative side effects, but criminalising its users is a waste of time and money for the government and our police.
“I will now work with my Lib Dem colleagues to oppose this move and hope to meet with the Home Secretary to personally put the case that this is a poorly thought policy which will harm, rather than help, many of my constituents in Bristol, especially Somalis.”
Julian Huppert MP, member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, wrote in March 2014:
“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.”
Head of External Affairs for Transform Drug Policy Foundation, Danny Kushlick, said:
“Yet again the Government has ignored the advice of its experts and prohibited another drug. As ever, it will serve to create a new income stream for organised crime and that insurgents could profit from. At the same time it will unnecessarily criminalise a minority group of Somalis and Yemenis, and deprive producers overseas of much needed legitimate revenue. It is high time that the legal regulation option was considered, not only for khat, but for other prohibited drugs.”
Danny Kushlick, Head of External Affairs, Transform Drug policy Foundation: 07970 174747
1 ACMD review of evidence on khat (pdf)
2 From the Home Affairs Select Committee, Nov 2013:
Australia has introduced a licensing system for importers. In Victoria, Australia, there are no restrictions on the consumption of khat, although importers must hold a licence and permit issued by the Office of Chemical Safety which allows for the importation of 5 kg of khat per month for personal use. It is clear that the regulation of the khat trade is an option that other countries have used and is something that could be implemented in the UK.
3 Julian Huppert MP quote here.
4 Foreign and Commonwealth Office press release, 12 June 2014:
London — The UK is one of the last countries to reclassify miraa, with the majority of other EU member states already having done so.
The UK ban on miraa/khat comes into effect on 24 June 2014. This comes following the British Parliament’s approval of the Government’s decision to reclassify miraa as a Class C drug.
This decision was in no way targeted at Kenya directly. The UK Government has had a long-standing intention to review the legal status of miraa. As the Home Secretary set out in July 2013, this decision was not taken lightly and the UK recognised the economic implications for a number of countries, predominantly in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
The UK Government understands the concerns and potential economic impact in Kenya of the UK decision to ban miraa. The UK is a close and committed partner to Kenya and both countries benefit from a broad and deep relationship covering a wide range of issues. The UK Government recognises the concerns of Kenya as a producer country and will continue to work with the Kenyan Government through aid and development programmes to support economic growth.
The decision to control miraa was taken to address a number of issues:
That UK legislation is out of step with many of our key international partners. The UK is one of the last countries to reclassify miraa, with the majority of other EU member states already having done so, as well as most of the G8 countries including Canada and the USA.
That the UK is at serious risk of becoming a regional hub - with evidence already suggesting that the UK is being used as a transit hub for onward illegal miraa trafficking to the Netherlands (where miraa was banned in January).
That there are real community concerns on the health and social harms of miraa use.