Workshop held in Tower Hamlets to tackle new drug

Workshop held to address criminalisation of Khat plant

Workshop held to address criminalisation of Khat plant - Credit: Rehan Jamil

An event was held to counter the spread of an African plant which the government plans to criminalise as a class C drug.

The meeting at the Davenant Centre, Whitechapel, brought together Somali community leaders and representatives from the police, the Council of Mosques, Public Health England and the Home Office to discuss how to manage the plant’s changed status.

Lutfur Rahman, mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “The government has indicated its intention to prohibit the sale and use of khat, which will have a big impact on certain groups within our community.

“This event helped us plan for possible future changes and how we can ensure the change is properly understood by our residents.”

Earlier this year, Home Secretary Theresa May announced that she will prohibit the sale and use of khat, a leafy green plant which contains a stimulant similar to an amphetamine, but a date has not been set for the change.

The plant is chewed by some Somali, Ethiopian, Kenyan and Yemeni people in Tower Hamlets, and can lead to insomnia, loss of appetite and mood swings.

In rare cases the drug can aggravate existing mental health problems and cause paranoid and psychotic reactions.

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Somen Banerjee, director of public health at the council, said: “The health concerns of khat are still emerging and its use tends to be concentrated with people experiencing wider social impacts affecting families, employment and financial issues.

“Tower Hamlets Council is leading the way on how best to address these issues and signpost those affected to local drugs and alcohol services available.”