Khat: a legal high, but should it be banned?

London (KON) - Khat, a stimulant drug, is chewed by around 90,000 people in the east African and Yemeni communities in the UK. But now the Home Office is considering banning the substance. Jamal Osman finds out why.
Article Keydmedia Online
Khat: a legal high, but should it be banned?

In an industrial estate in Southall, west London, thousands of boxes full of khat are delivered every week. The drug begins its journey from the hills of Kenya and arrives in the UK four times a week. It then makes its way to the depot, where dealers buy the herbal high to supply customers across the UK. The fresh leaves are chewed to achieve a state of mild euphoria. It has a stimulant effect similar to that of amphetamines.

Britain is the only country in the west where the product remains legal. The khat business generates over £400m in revenue for the British economy, and the chancellor of the exchequer also picks up a tidy sum in VAT revenue.

Around 90,000 people from the east African and Yemeni communities in the UK use it, especially the Somali community. But a Home Office report, which will be published on Wednesday, is to recommend regulating the product, and a ban is expected to follow later.

Not far from the depot in Southall lies Number 15, the best-known khat house in the country. Traditionally known as marfash, the khat house is open from midday till the early morning hours. Men sit around chewing the green leaf.

A little buzz

Mahdi Jama, a regular chewer in the marfash, cannot understand why anyone would bother people like him as the plant has been used for centuries by his community.


Article 21 May 2021 10:14

I read your article on Foreign Policy with keen eyes and interest. While whining from public officials does not deserve response from any sensible citizen of the Republic of Somalia, I felt compelled to counter false narrative with more objective analysis.