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Transform Drug Policy Foundation (TDPF) is the UK's leading centre of expertise on drug policy and law reform.
Posted by jane at 11:37 am
|Professor Averil Mansfield, Chair of the British Medical Association, speaking at the Count the Costs health event|
Posted by jane at 10:04 am
“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.”The Home Secreatary who ordered today's ban, Teresa May, has argued that the UK has become a transshipment point for khat because other countries have prohibited it. The ACMD, however, note that:
"it is likely that some khat is re-exported to countries where it is banned" (p.82)
"Fears of the UK becoming a hub for importation of khat appear not borne out by the VAT figures provided by the HMRC regarding the volume of khat imported into the UK since 2005 or by any evidence suggesting the UK is a landing point for the onward transportation of significant quantities of khat"(p.10)
"in regard to international crime, it is known the Al Shabaab militia,which control parts of southern Somalia, tax sales of khat as all retail transactions of any product are taxed. However, in countries beyond the UK where khat has been prohibited it enters the illegal market through smuggling and illicit sale, and so becomes criminal activity by definition. To clarify, the ACMD has not been provided with any evidence of Al Shabaab or any other terrorist groups‘ involvement in khat export/sale, despite repeated requests for this information from a number of national and international official sources, including various Government bodies."(p.55)Dr Axel Klein, one of the key experts on khat who gave evidence informing the ACMD report, told Transform that:
"There's no reason to support the ban except that other countries have done so. There is an alleged terror link but this looks ridiculous given that Al Shabaab in Somalia have been banning khat themselves. The trade has provided hundreds of UK Somalis with a livelihood, and their countrymen with a peaceful and agreeable past time.
For Islamic campaigners this has long been a thorn in the flesh of the community. Mafrishes are public spaces, where discussion ranges widely and freely, as friends gather to relax and enjoy. At a time of rising hostility and nationalism making the assimilation for even second or third Generation British Somalis more difficult, such spaces come at a premium. In Somali neighbourhoods like Tower Hamlets and Lambeth these mafrishes were the strongest organised opposition to the grip held by Islamic organisations over the community. A Conservative Home Secretary with backbench support has just handed radical Islam their first political success in the UK."
It is worth noting that the ACMD argues that the general absence of crime problems and criminal profits associated with khat are specifically due to the fact that it remains legal, stating that:
"There is no evidence of khat consumption being directly linked with serious or organised criminal behavior in the UK or to support the theory that khat is funding or fuelling crime. This is unsurprising given khat is not an illegal drug, is not a high value substance and therefore attracts very little profit from the UK market" (p.3)
"The ACMD has not fully explored the positive or negative affects of criminalisation of khat. However, it can be assumed that if the price of khat increases, for example due to criminalisation, there is the potential for exploitation by organised criminal gangs already involved in the illegal drug trade and this would arguably increase funds available to such networks and groups if khat use went underground" (p.55)
"Evidence presented to the ACMD by practitioners and researchers found no link between gang crime and khat use; although concerns were raised that if khat were criminalised this profile could change" (p.55)
“The khat industry is a legitimate business. There is no indication of organised criminals or terrorists being involved in the UK trade, perhaps because of its legality. However, since the USA made khat illegal there is some evidence of organised criminals becoming involved in its shipment to the USA.”
"To respond to these multilayered complex problems [faced by immigrant populations] by criminalising an already disadvantaged group in society deserves serious and careful consideration, especially in light of the limitations of the findings of the research before the ACMD. A didactic approach is supported by the National Federation of Somali Associations in the Netherlands which prefers education and information about the potential risks related to the use of Khat, as well as a coordinated national approach to address the social and economic problems members of the Somali Community are confronted with" (p.79)
"In the context of those communities where khat is used, consideration of the potential negative impact criminalisation may have should be carefully balanced against the need for support to focus on the concerns raised by communities." (p.83)
"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."
Posted by George Murkin at 2:33 pm
Posted by George Murkin at 10:17 am