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About sharing media captionOpinion is divided on whether banning khat in the UK is the right thing The leafy plant khat, which acts as a stimulant when chewed, is about to become a banned class C drug in the UK.
But how big a problem is it and why are ministers making it illegal? It could be a scene from a market in Mogadishu. Dozens of Somali men are throwing cardboard boxes at each other across a dusty warehouse floor. Money is exchanging hands amid all the noise and hustle. In fact, this is happening on an industrial estate near London Heathrow and by Tuesday all this activity will be illegal. That is because of what is inside the boxes that have just cha delivered to this depot.
It is a plant called khat or miraa or - more mystically - "Tea of the Arabs". Users chew the bitter leaves of this natural stimulant. It is supposed to make them more alert and raise energy levels, which is why supporters of khat say it is as harmless as coffee or tea. From his West London depot, Mahat - who did not want to give his surname - oversees the importing of 7, boxes of it a week - fresh off the overnight flight from Nairobi. Looking at the other end of the supply chain, Kenyan ethiopan farmer FG Machuma is worried about how the ban will hurtfarmers who cultivate the plant in the Horn of Africa.
It makes people happy and talkative but can cause insomnia and temporary confusion. Chewed for a few hours it leaves users with a feeling of calm, described by some as "blissed out". The drug could make pre-existing mental health problems worse and it can provoke feelings of anxiety and aggression.
It can also inflame the mouth and damage teeth, and there are concerns about the long-term risk of mouth cancers. In a report last year they argued that "the potential negative effects, both on the diaspora communities who consume khat in the UK, and on the growers who cultivate it in Africa, outweigh any possible benefits".
There's no good evidence to suggest a direct link between khat use and psychosis. The government's own advisory council also cautioned against a banconcerned at the lack of evidence that it harms health or wider society. The ACMD concluded: "Beyond contradictory anecdotal statements no credible evidence has been found to show a direct causal relationship between khat and the various harms for which its consumption is claimed to be responsible. Karen Bradley, the Home Office minister overseeing the ban, admits hard evidence is difficult to come by, partly because the communities which use the drug are so small.
And as young gay chat minister points out, Mr Noah - from Hayes, west London - managed to get support from many Somali women who are concerned that men using khat do not engage properly with their families because of their habit. Suaad Abdiaziz is one of those supporting the ban and she has a blunt message for Somali khat-users in their cafes: "You should be taking care of your children and working - not sitting in a room chewing khat.
He insists it does because of the etiopian it triggers. Ministers say this was also a deciding factor in the arguments to criminalise it. We're having a nice time" Some security experts have even argued that the East African extremist group al-Shabab has profited from the export and sale of khat. This was dismissed by the ACMD, which complained cgat had not been provided with "any evidence of al-Shabab involvement despite repeated requests for this information from a of national and international official sources". Inevitably - as with all bans - a black market will emerge and the price of khat for those who buy it in the UK will rise.
Back at the west London depot, Mahat may be winding down his own import business to stay on the right side of the law, but he believes others will still find a way to bring it into the UK. Online: Yesterday. Khat - its effects and risks About sharing media captionOpinion is divided on whether banning khat in the UK is the right thing The leafy plant khat, which acts as a stimulant when chewed, is about to become a banned class C drug in the UK.
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