Peer approve plans to ban Khat

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Plans to ban Khat, a stimulant popular among Yemeni and Somali communities, have been approved by the House of Lords on 12 May 2014.

Despite cross-party criticism, the government's Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Amendment) (No.2) Order 2014 - which will re-grade the drug as a class-C drug - passed without a vote.

Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Hamwee warned the government against banning anything of "cultural significance" - Khat is used in traditional Yemeni weddings - as it risked "driving a wedge between the police and already quite marginalised communities".

Banning the drug, Lady Hamwee told the House, would be akin to banning sugar almonds.

She cited the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs report that concluded Khat should not be banned because there was "insufficient evidence" it caused health problems, and told the chamber Khat is less potent than many other commonly used stimulants.

Labour also criticised the government for making its decision without what it called sufficiently "robust evidence".

However, a Labour-tabled regret motion calling for a 12-month review of the impact of the drug's reclassification and for the Department for International Development to work with the Kenyan government to mitigate the effect on the Kenyan economy, was defeated by 216 votes to 125.

Responding to the debate, Home Office Minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach warned that not banning the drug could lead to the UK becoming a "khat-trafficking hub".

About 2,560 tonnes of khat, worth £13.8m, was imported to the UK in 2011-12.

It is already banned in most of Europe and in a number of other countries, including the US and Canada.

People caught in possession of a class-C drug can be sentenced to up to two years in prison and face an unlimited fine; dealing or supplying can mean up to 14 years in jail.

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