Khat is now an illegal Class C drug

Tower Hamlets Council and the local NHS are reminding residents that the drug khat is now (from June 24 2014), an illegal class C drug under new legislation introduced by the government.

Khat is now a controlled Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, which means it is illegal to use, produce, possess, supply and import or export khat.

Khat consists of the shoots, leaves and stems of the catha edulis plant, and is chewed for its mild stimulant effects. It contains stimulant amphetamine-type substances cathinone and cathine, which can produce mild dependence. The active ingredients in Khat are already controlled drugs both in the UK and internationally because they can be harmful.

Cllr Ohid Ahmed, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said: “Although khat has been used for many years by a small number of people in Tower Hamlets we are keen to ensure that the recent changes are well communicated so that people do not fall foul of the law. We want to remind people   who use or trade in khat that from today (June 24), these activities will become illegal and the police will be enforcing penalties.

“The council is ensuring that there are a wide range of local drug support services available for residents who wish to access services to help them quit khat.”

National policing lead for drug-related crime, Chief Constable Andy Bliss, said: “Enforcement of this change in the law will be firm but proportionate. Officers will take into account the nature of the offence and its severity, using a tiered approach towards offences relating to possession for personal use. The police will work with Home Office colleagues, healthcare providers and community leaders to ensure that people in localities where khat use is prevalent are aware of the change in law and the police approach as well as support available to them.”

Dr Somen Banerjee, Director of Public Health at Tower Hamlets Council added: “Chewing khat can affect your health, causing insomnia, a loss of appetite, high blood pressure and mood swings. It can also make pre-existing mental health problems worse and cause paranoid or psychotic reactions. If you use khat or are concerned about someone who does, it is important to access local services for support.”

What happens if I am caught with khat once it becomes an illegal Class C drug?From June 24 2014, police will be able to use khat warnings and penalty notices for disorder (PND) for £60 to adults. This means that if the police find you with khat which is meant for your own personal use, you can:

  • be given a warning for the first possession offence
  • be given a penalty notice for disorder (a £60 fine) for your second possession offence
  • face arrest for your third possession offence.

Young people aged 17 years of age, or under, cannot be given a khat warning or a PND for possession of khat. Section 65 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 requires that such young people be considered for a youth caution, youth conditional caution or prosecution.

What happens if you trade in khat once it becomes an illegal Class C drug?If you are caught, the police will take action and there is a risk of prosecution. As a Class C drug it will be illegal to supply, possess with intent to supply and import khat. Sanctions for these offences for Class C drugs are up to 14 years imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both.

Supplying khat to your friends, even if you give it away, is also considered ‘supplying’ under the law.

Where can I get local help to quit khat?If you live in Tower Hamlets you can contact the following services for direct help and support:

  • Young Peoples Service (Under 19s), Unit 26 Skylines Village, Limeharbour, Marsh Wall, London, E14 9TS. Tel: 020 3069 7878.
  • Community Drug Team (Over 18s), 71 Johnson Street (Off Cable Street), London, E1 0AQ. Tel: 020 7790 1344
  • Nafas (Over 18s), The Davenant Centre, 179-181 Whitechapel Road, London E1 1DN, Tel: 020 7377 0676
  • Somali Project (Over 18s), Mind in Tower Hamlets and Newham, Open House, 13 Whitethorn Street, E3 4DA. Tel: 020 7510 1081
  • Isis Women Only Service (Over 18s), C/O Hopetown Hostel, 60 Old Montague Street, London E1 5NJ. Tel: 020 7426 0399