Kenya Lobbies UK Not to Ban Khat

Khat farmers rely on profits made from export sales.

Posted: 11/27/2013 03:21 PM EST

MPs from Kenya have lobbied the British government over the UK’s plan to completely ban the use of khat, pronounced (cot). A blend of leaves and shrubs from a plant cultivated in the Horn of Africa, khat is a popular herbal stimulant that is chewed and has been commonly used throughout Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and the Arabian Peninsula for thousands of years.   

However, in recent months the UK Home Secretary Theresa May said the results from studies into the health implications of khat were insufficient and that the health risks posed by the drug are underestimated. 

Given that the drug is illegal throughout most European countries, May says the government needs to act to prevent the UK from becoming “a single, regional hub for the illegal onward trafficking."

According to the drug advice website, run by the UK Home Office and aimed at 13 to 18-year-olds, the side affects of using khat can cause heart problems and result in psychotic reactions.  

Somali groups in the UK support the ban claiming that the use of khat led to “significant social problems.” 

But for the group of Kenyan MPs they say banning khat would have significant economic implications for the khat farmers who rely on profits made from export sales.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Omar Faruk)

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