The stimulant khat has been an illegal class C drug in the UK since July 24 this year
Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Police say making the drug illegal has not created tensions with the Somali community in Hounslow as some had feared.
Just two people have been fined for possession of khat in Hounslow since the drug was banned three months ago.
Police in Hounslow were the first in London to issue a warning and a £60 fine to someone caught with the substance on June 24, the day it became a class C drug in the UK.
But Chief Inspector Rob Weir, who is leading the enforcement of the ban in Hounslow, said just one further fixed penalty had been handed out in the borough in the three and a bit months since.
He told getwestlondon that despite opposition from some communities in London, the ban had been welcomed by the majority of Somalis in Hounslow.
He also said that unlike neighbouring boroughs, where there have been large seizures, there were not many Somali cafés in Hounslow where elders have traditionally gathered to chew khat.
"The main work we've done had been raising awareness about the change within the Somali community. We've visited local mosques and had a very positive response from those with whom we've engaged," he added.
"This isn't an issue which has created tension between the police and the Somali community. If anything it's helped us build stronger links."
People caught with Khat, a plant widely used as a stimulant by members of the Somali, Yemeni and Ethiopian communities, face up to two years in prison.
There were protests in London for and against the ban ahead of its introduction. Supporters of the ban claimed khat harmed users' mental health and tore families apart, while opponents said it was part of their culture and users would switch to more harmful drugs like alcohol.