U.K. Criminalizing Khat Risks Inciting TerrorismKitty Donaldson
Home Secretary Theresa May’s plan to outlaw khat risks alienating communities in the U.K. where the herbal stimulant is widely used, and increasing recruitment to terrorist network al-Shabab, lawmakers said.
May announced in July she would criminalize the stimulant, which is taken from a flowering plant and gives users mild euphoria, to prevent the U.K. becoming a hub for trafficking. It is used by Somali, Kenyan and Yemeni communities in Britain.
A conviction for dealing a Class C drug carries a penalty of as much as 14 years in jail. Today lawmakers from Parliament’s cross-party Home Affairs Committee called on May to abandon her plans and license importers of the stimulant instead, saying her decision was “not based on evidence of medical or social harm.”
“It is baffling that potential friction between already disadvantaged communities and the police has not been fully considered,” the panel’s chairman, opposition Labour Party lawmaker Keith Vaz, said in an e-mail. “We cannot afford for those who are already marginalized to be pushed towards criminality or extremism. It is vital that prohibition in the U.K. does not result in an increase in recruitment of al-Shabab abroad.” Al-Shabab is the Somalia-based wing of al-Qaeda.
“Banning khat in the U.K. will protect the public from risks associated with its misuse,” the Home Office said in a statement. “It will also prevent Britain from becoming a single regional hub for crimimals trying to make a profit as countries across Europe have implemented the same ban.”