The UK and the Netherlands commissioned distinguished scholars and experts to study the social and clinical harms of khat. These experts argued that any harms associated with khat did not require a criminal law response. In rejecting that conclusion and banning khat, these two governments have created an enabling environment for organized criminal networks and may exacerbate racial discrimination in drug law enforcement. Moreover, these policies put in danger the livelihood of thousands of people in some of the world’s lowest-income settings.
On the basis of the available evidence, the overwhelming majority of Council members consider that khat should not be controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. In summary the reason for this is that, save for the issue of liver toxicity, although there may be a correlation or association between the use of khat and various negative social indicators, it is not possible to conclude that there is any causal link.
In the context of a fast changing and well documented market in legal highs, the case of khat (Catha edulis) provides an interesting anomaly. It is first of all a plant-based substance that undergoes minimal transformation or processing in the journey from farm to market. Secondly, khat has been consumed for hundreds if not thousands of years in the highlands of Eastern Africa and Southern Arabia. In European countries, khat use was first observed during the 1980s, but has only attracted wider attention in recent years.
A grey area has emerged between what is legal and what is not as states struggle with how to respond to the many new synthetic compounds emerging onto the market. Of the various types of ‘Legal highs’ the seminar focused on stimulants because of the parallels with the other main drug-policy issue of the moment; i.e. the status of traditional herbal stimulants. These older discussions have been reinvigorated by: Bolivia’s efforts to de-schedule coca-leaf at UN level; the debates on the status of khat between EU States, and of kratom across Asia; and the increasing stride of legitimate cannabis use on the domestic front, as in for example Spain.
Khat leaves are cultivated in the highlands of the Horn of Africa, Southern Arabia and along the East African coast. In many countries, chewing khat is an age-old tradition. More recently, the mass migration of people from the Horn of Africa has been associated with the spread of khat usage to neighbouring countries, Europe and the rest of the world. Exact numbers of regular khat users on a worldwide scale do not exist, however estimates range up to 20 million. This paper presents the challenges associated with the spread of khat consumption.
The study aims to review and analyse the varied East African discourses on the effects of khat use on libido, fertility, transmission of HIV, prostitution and rape. Khat is associated, by consumers and its detractors alike, with changes in libido and sexual performance. Although there is no evidence to support their claims, detractors of khat use argue that khat causes sexual violence, causes women to enter sex work, and that chewing causes the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including the HIV virus.
The article reviews the status of khat, the most recent plant based psychoactive substance to reach a global market, and considers policy making processes in general and the framework of drug control in particular. The risk assessment and classification of psychoactive drugs is a contested arena where political, economic and moral agendas collide, leaving countries that have banned khat, with significant social costs. To best manage the risks arising from the increasing availability of khat it is therefore suggested to draft a regulatory framework with clear objectives and guiding principles.
Paul Griffiths, Dominique Lopez, Roumen Sedefov, Ana Gallegos, Brendan Hughes, André Noor, Luis Royuela
07 May 2010
The aim of the study was to review the information available on the use of khat (Catha edulis) in the EU, and to assess the future use of this drug and related substances. Khat use sits awkwardly within the current EU reporting framework, and this hampers the production of a European-level analysis of the use of this drug. Why this is so, and what information is available at the European level, are the topics addressed in this paper. The analysis is extended to consider if the current evidence suggests that this drug, or synthetic variations of the psychoactive compounds it contains, are likely to play a greater role in the European drug scene of the future.
Within the last decade the hitherto little known psychoactive substance of khat has emerged as a regional and international issue. In the Horn of Africa khat production has spurred an economic boom, but dramatic increases in consumption have raised public health concerns. Given the complexity of the topic spanning multiple academic disciplines and fields of professional practice, the need for a systematic overview is urgent.
The regulation of khat, one of the most recent psychoactive drugs to become a globally traded commodity, remains hotly contested within different producer and consumer countries. As regimes vary, it has been possible to compare khat policies in Africa, Europe and North America from different disciplinary perspectives. The research established the significance of khat for rural producers, regional economies, as a tax base and source of foreign exchange. At the same time, khat as a psychoactive substance is associated with health and public safety problems that in turn are met with often ill-informed legislative responses. Bans have in turn lead to the criminalisation of users and sellers and illegal drug markets.
E.J.M. Pennings, A. Opperhuizen, J.G.C. van Amsterdam
22 August 2008
In preparing a decision about the legal status of khat in the Netherlands, the Dutch Minister of Health requested CAM (Coordination point Assessment and Monitoring new drugs) to assess the overall risk of khat in the Netherlands. The present paper is a redraft of a report which formed the scientific basis of the risk evaluation procedure (October 2007). This report reviews the scientific data about khat available in the international literature. In addition, the report contains some information specific for the Netherlands (prevalence, availability of khat and public order aspects).
The global trade in khat is controversial. The United States and most countries in Europe have banned it, considering it a psychotropic substance. But it contributes significantly to farmers’ livelihood in Eastern Africa. Though public officials in the region denounce its consumption, they benefit from the foreign exchange and tax revenues that it generates. So, how should this contradiction be resolved?
This report, based on a household survey conducted in 2006, discusses options for discouraging qat consumption in Yemen. It draws on a survey - the first representative data collection exercise aimed specifically at assessing the qat consumption phenomena - which confirms that the use of this drug is widespread. Qat is consumed by men, women and children; its use is extremely time consuming; it drains the family budget; has adverse health effects; negatively affects work performance and thus contributes to poverty.