A drug commonly used legally by the Somali community in Northampton is an illegal Class C drug from today.
The khat plant contains natural stimulants which are already controlled in the UK and other western European countries and police are advising people from the community about the change in the law.
Anyone found in possession of khat may be given a formal warning in the first instance. A second offence could result in a penalty notice with a £60 fine and a third offence could result in the person being arrested.
Detective inspector Mark Pattison said: “Officers will be expected to use theirs powers sensitively. It is acknowledged that the majority of users come from already disadvantaged communities and enforcement needs to proportionate.”
“There will be some low-key visits to community gathering places to gauge how effective the ban is in the first few weeks after the ban starts. Heavy users of Khat can seek help from their GPs in the first instance,” Det Insp Pattison added.
DC Rachel Packman and PC Nick Stephens have been visiting businesses, community groups and individuals across the county to remind people about the ban.
PC Stephens said: “Some people are concerned about the ban but others welcome it as they see khat use as a problem that can cause family break-ups. It can cause insomnia and can make pre-existing mental health problems worse and can also cause paranoid and psychotic reactions.”
Community engagement officers from Northamptonshire Police have been visiting local businesses, community groups and individuals to spread the message about the new law.
DC Packman said: “The majority of our affected communities are well aware of the Government plans but may not yet be aware of the date the ban comes into force. It is an issue that has been discussed for several years and now the reality of a ban is beginning to hit home.”
Khat factsheets are available at www.gov.uk/government/publications/khat-fact-sheet-for-england-and-wales.