Jan 31 2013 by Hannah Bewley, Harrow Observer
A CAMPAIGNER is ‘devastated’ the government has been advised not to ban the drug ‘khat’ but has vowed to fight on.
Former khat addict Abukar Awale was hoping the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs would recommend a blanket ban on the legal stimulant, which he claims is having a detrimental impact on people – largely the Somali community – in Brent.
Mr Awale, a community support worker at Copland Community School in Wembley, said: “We are devastated with the report. We were hoping that it would be a total ban or at least regulation.
“The legality of khat is sending the wrong message to young people and one that is going to have devastating effects for young people. We have lost the battle but we have not lost the war.”
Members of the council agreed khat, a plant which originates in Africa, should not be controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
The report, released on Wednesday last week , says: “It is apparent from the evidence on societal harms that it is often difficult to disentangle whether khat is the source of community problems or, to some extent, its prevalence and use is symptomatic of the problems for some individuals and groups within the community.”
Brent Council’s Health Partnerships Overview and Scrutiny Committee set up a khat task group which released a report last year saying the council was powerless to classify the drug or prevent sales to under 18s. The report recommended local controls to regulate it and raise awareness, such as the hours which it could be sold in shops and calling on shopkeepers to voluntarily ban sales to under-18s.
Councillor Ann Hunter, chairwoman of a khat task group, said: “Of the 24 members of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, 15 are clinically qualified and they took evidence from a wide range of both professional and interested parties throughout the UK. They reached the same conclusions that we did last year, that there is not sufficient evidence to warrant a ban on khat.
“The Somali community in Brent has issues which need addressing, such as employment, language barriers, integration and the traumas of what they have experienced back in Somalia, but none of these would be solved by banning khat.
“The Somali community is itself divided over the issue, both in Brent, and, as we now know, in the country as a whole.”
Mr Awale, a father of five, said the effects of the leaf are wide ranging.
“Many Somali people are being treated for mental health issues because of this. Younger people are taking it now and mothers in Brent are despairing,” he said.
Aden Mohammed, who works with a Somali youth group in Kingsbury, added: “If you drink, you drink knowing that if you drink too much you know it will harm you eventually, and they know it is harming their health, their finances and their family.”
n People from Brent will be joining a march in Westminster on Saturday, February 23, against the drug.