A HEALTH committee in Brent has called on the Somali community to help regulate legal drug khat.
Brent Council’s Health Partnerships Overview and Scrutiny Committee has put forward recommendations to the council aimed at regulating and raising awareness of the plant-derived drug, which is prevalent in Wembley and among the Somali community.
The council does not have the power to classify the drug or prevent sales to under 18s, so they are calling on shopkeepers to voluntarily ban sales to under-18s among other recommendations, which were approved at a meeting on Tuesday.
Councillor Ann Hunter, chairwoman of a ‘khat task group’ set up by the health committee to look at the health and social impact of the drug in Brent, says in the report prepared ahead of the meeting: “Our primary concern was to look at the social and health implications of khat, both for those who chew, their families and neighbours, and the communities in which they live. Views range from a desire for a total ban on the import and chewing of khat, to those who see it as a cultural and harmless practice.
“It is not in our remit to classify the drug; that is for the government to decide. What we propose are a series of practical recommendations to regulate its use and most importantly to raise awareness of the key issues surrounding its use.”
The report’s other recommendations include better signposting to refugee and immigrant support services in Brent, greater advertising of English courses and working alongside drug support groups to include users of khat.
It also calls on the council to run an enforcement campaign to ensure mafrish (khat cafes) owners comply with health and safety regulations.
Imported from parts of north east Africa and the Middle East, khat, which sells at about £4 for a bundle, is chewed and said to produce feelings of euphoria, increased energy and enhanced self esteem.
Mental health professionals say withdrawal of khat can lead to feelings of depression and it has been linked to unemployment in users, which prompted the task group to be set up.
The recommendations will now go before a Brent Council executive meeting for approval, which is expected to be next month.
Last October, the Observer revealed that community engagement officer Abukar Awale, who works in Brent, had launched a campaign to ban the drug in the UK. The government is still reviewing the drug, including whether it should be classified.