Dutch government bans khat

Earlier this month the Dutch government announced that khat (Catha edulis) will be banned in the Netherlands. Up until now the Netherlands were one of the few remaining countries that allowed the plant, which is primarily used by Somalis, traditionally by chewing on the leaves. The government has discouraged the sale of khat for some time now.

The fact that the Dutch government feels it necessary to follow other European laws on this matter is hard to understand. According to research done by the RIVM (Dutch institute for health and environment) the use of khat brings much less risk compared to heroin, cocaine, alcohol and tobacco.

The decisions to ban khat was based in part on a study conducted by the Trimbos institute (an institute which conducts research on mental health and addiction) wherein approximately 10% of the khat use was said to lead to problems. Incidental use of khat is said to be harmless. Other arguments in favour of the ban seem to echo the sentiments of the British government, as we reported several years ago.

Similarly to that news posting, the use of khat is thought to be one of the main causes for the great social-economic problems the Somali community is facing. The intoxicated state that follows after chewing the leaves is said to be a factor in the high unemployment count among Somalis. Yet things still remain unclear. The Trimbos study notes:

"Based on the limited research available and the lack of scientific substantiation, we can’t judge the causality. The question remains whether the socio-economic situation is a result of khat abuse or if khat is used as a means of ‘escaping’ these problems."

Azarius stopped offering khat when the Dutch government began actively discouraging it, but we still question the arguments presented by the Dutch cabinet. Similarly to one of the responses to the news, does this mean the government will start banning soccer, alcohol and tobacco as well? Are these not used as a means of escape and a cause of misbehaviour and all kinds of social problems?

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