Khat smuggling capital of Europe’ Britain bans popular stimulant.

Wednesday, June 26, 2014

Britain on Tuesday became the latest nation to formally outlaw the herbal stimulant khat — a bushy leaf chewed recreationally by many Somalis, Yemenis, Kenyans and Ethiopians.

Under a new law that came into effect on Tuesday, khat is now classified as a “class C drug,” making possession punishable by up to two years in jail and supply and production punishable by up to 14 years behind bars.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said in an article for the Somali website Hiiraan Online that the move would protect “vulnerable members of society.”

“What is most concerning is khat’s social impact,” he wrote. “While it may be used on special occasions in countries like Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, it is estimated that nearly half of all British Somali men chew it – and that one in ten men chews it every day, sometimes for hours on end.

“As a result, their communities blame khat for family breakdown, unemployment, debt and crime links to the global illicit drugs trade. And that is why these communities – and this Government – have said ‘enough is enough.’”

Khat, a flowering plant that goes by the official name Catha edulis, has been chewed for centuries in the Horn of Africa. Its psychoactive ingredients — cathinone and cathine — are similar to amphetamines but weaker, and can help chewers stay awake and talkative.

It is classified as a drug of abuse by the World Health Organization and is designated as a controlled substance in Canada, Germany and the United States, among others.

But Britain was becoming the “khat smuggling capital of Europe” as a result of bans in other countries on the continent, Cameron said. Nearly 3,000 tons of khat worth $23.4 million was imported to the U.K. in 2011-12, bringing in around $4.8 million of tax revenues. – See more at: