The herbal stimulant khat is to be banned by the government, against the advice of its own Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. Prof David Anderson is co-author of The Khat Controversy: Dealing with the Debate on Drugs (2007) and was part of the ACDM's Working Party on khat in the UK. He said:
"The decision announced today by the Home Secretary to ban khat comes as a great surprise. The government's Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has investigated khat three times over recent years, and once again in the most recent of these enquiries, completed earlier this year, no reason was found to recommend prohibition.
It is astonishing that a government that claims to support evidence-based policy-making should make such a decision, having been unequivocally told by their own scientific committee that there is no evidence to justify any action.
The Home Secretary of course retains the right to make decisions in contradiction to advice, and that is what she has done. But it has been done in contradiction of the scientific advice she has received. As the Chairperson of the ACMD, Professor Les Iversen, has acknowledged, this is disappointing.
The investigations carried out by the ACMD into khat importation and consumption in the UK were extensive, and included evidence relating to international aspects of the trade. I served on the Working Party, and no evidence of any kind that was shown to us would justify a ban.
The impact of this will be to criminalise khat consumers in the UK, all of whom belong to ethnic minority communities, predominantly Yemenis, Ethiopians, Somalis and Kenyans. Khat trading will go underground, joining other illegal drugs trafficking, filling the pockets of organised criminals who will take over supply. The criminals will be rubbing their hands with glee.
For producers of the plant, predominantly in Kenya and Ethiopia, the countries from which khat has been imported into the UK, there will also be a significant economic impact. In the Meru region of Kenya, khat is these most important cash crop and its income is crucial to the welfare of many rural households."
To contact Professor Anderson contact Kelly Parkes-Harrison, Press and Communications Manager, University of Warwick, 02476 150868, 07824 540863.