Hundreds of people, both for and against the banning of the drug khat, filled the streets of Harlesden this afternoon trying to get their voices heard.
Brent police hosted an awareness day to let regular khat users and dealers know about the drug becoming illegal as of June 24.
Khat is a drug, mainly used in the Somalian community, it is a green leafed shrub and sells at about £4 a bunch but only remains potent for a few days after picked.
The new ban has created mixed views among the communities in Brent, some are pleased to see it go, others are not. Somalis in Southall warned earlier this week that khat users might turn to alcohol following the ban.
The Sunrise cafe in Church Road, Harlesden
used to be a Khat cafe, the new owners have converted it to a regular cafe, owner Ubah Nur said: “I believe the community will profit in a positive way from the ban, I do not believe that people need to use khat. The majority of the community will accept the new law, they do not want to pay fines. You can socialise from so many different ways, you do not need to use it.”
Khat is strongest when the fresh leaves are chewed but can also be made into a tea or chewable paste.
Loula Ofleh is against the ban coming into action, she owns a cafe in Church Road, at the back of the shop there is an area used only for khat users. She said: “This ban will affect the life of everyone here, I do not know what to do, it will definitely affect my business, the business is good at the moment, I am now worried, all my family are in the area and I have been here for three years, it has always worked well.
A protester on the street, Mohamed Guled, 34, said: “I used to use it all the time, but I have given up, it messed me up. I hate it now I think it should be banned, it is not a good thing and it is destroying our community.”
Hussein Hersi works at The Unity Centre in Harlesden, he is not a khat user but is against the ban coming into action, he said: “I think it will tear up the community, it is a cultural thing, it will make people very angry and it is going to ruin so many people’s businesses. It will affect a lot of people.”
The drug will be made class C and police are warning if users are caught with it, you could spend up to two years in prison.
Superintendent, Simon Rose from Brent Police attended the awareness day, he told the Observer: “Khat is going to be banned as a Class C drug, obviously we are aware it is consumed by mainly the Somali and Yemeni community, it has been legal in the UK for a long time, so it is a big change.
“We have been working with the community to explain the implications of the ban and helping them to prepare. The whole effort is to prevent people coming into contact with the police with the possession of khat after the ban.”