For forty years the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 has formed the corner stone of drug policy in Britain. The emergence of new psychoactive substances (‘legal highs’) during the past fifteen years or so has challenged the drug control system. The arrival in 2012 of a new psychoactive substance on the market, on average, every six days raises questions about how best to protect young people from unknown and unsafe drugs. The Government is considering this challenge and we hope this Inquiry report will make a helpful contribution to their deliberations.
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.
Since first coming to public prominence at the end of 2009, legal highs have posed a major challenge to existing legal and legislative structures designed to deal with drugs. With the market in manufactured psychoactive substances like mephedrone moving faster than public policy can accommodate, this report asks whether the assumptions enshrined in the 40-year-old Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) are still valid when applied 21st century drugs market.
The attached summary report addresses the myths that surround the coca leaf and is presented to the Committee members in order to allow them to make an evidence-based judgement on its current legal status and on the potential usefulness of coca in its natural form, including in the UK context.
Substances that contain ephedra are known to aid weight loss and enhance athletic performance. Until April 2004 in the Netherlands, products containing this substance were available in pharmacies but also in so-called 'smart shops' (establishments where legal psychoactive substances are sold, usually for leisure purposes), where they were marketed as drugs for recreational use. On 6 April 2004, the Dutch government classified ephedra alkaloids as a medical drug in the Act on the Provision of Medical Drugs.
The increasingly widespread use of ketum (or kratom) in Malaysia earlier this year prompted the Ministry of Home Affairs to lead a push to schedule it in the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952. On April 1, the amendment to the DDA was shelved. Opposition MP Wong Chen wrote a Facebook post detailing reasons for opposition to the amendment, including: usage as traditional medication, lack of socioeconomic considerations, and the need for evidence-based rehabilitation. He also emphasized that the country should be moving towards decriminalization of drugs.
Today, khat joined the range of prohibited substances that fall under the UK Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Those who distribute this Class C drug can now face 14 years imprisonment – the same maximum sentence that applies to individuals who cause death by dangerous driving, and four years more than the maximum penalty for sexual assault. So what exactly is khat, and why has it attracted such harsh legislation? (See also: Khat: Update - Ban to be implemented on the 24th of June)
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.
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).
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.