NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 8 – The National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) chairman John Mututho has called on parliamentarians to repeal a section in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Control Act which lists miraa as containing stimulants.
The newly appointed chairman told the ad hoc National Assembly Committee probing the effects of miraa that the Act which was enacted in 1994 says the miraa which is grown in large scale in Meru and Nyambene contains components of Cathine and Cathinone which are qualified as hard drugs and forbidden by some European countries.
“In terms of pronouncement whether miraa is a drug or not, it all started here in Parliament when you passed this Act,” he said. “We are now recommending that you repeal that simple word and we will have no problem.”
NACADA chief executive William Okedi told the House team that they have no legislative authority to classify or ban any drug.
Mututho said the ban introduced on the exportation of miraa by the United Kingdom was motivated by political, social and commerce reasons.
He noted that the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs had recommended against the move, stating that there was no scientific evidence to prove that use of miraa has adverse health effects.
UK Home Secretary Theresa May said in July that her government risked underestimating the health and social harm of the plant which has around 90,000 regular users in Britain. It is to be classified a class C drug, meaning possession can result in a two-year prison sentence.
May said in a written Commons statement: “Khat continues to feature prominently amongst the health and social harms, such as low attainment and family breakdown, cited by affected communities and the police and local authorities working with them.”
She said: “The Government will ban khat so we can protect vulnerable members of our communities and send a clear message to our international partners and khat smugglers that the UK is serious about stopping the illegal trafficking of khat.”
MPs led by Committee Chairperson Florence Kajuju who is also the Meru County Women Representative and Nandi County Women Representative Zipporah Kurgat questioned the criteria the drug agency used in order in classifying the herb as a drug in July.
“Why has it taken you so long before you could do a study that will tell us whether the percentage of Cathine and Cathinone that is contained in miraa, if any,” posed Kajuju.
Khat consumption induces mild euphoria and excitement, similar to that conferred by strong coffee.
Khat can induce manic behaviours and hyperactivity. Individuals become very talkative under the influence of the plant.
Constipation, dilated pupils are prominent during khat consumption, reflecting the sympathomimetic effects of the drug, which are also reflected in increased heart rate and blood pressure.
Withdrawal symptoms that may follow prolonged khat use include use include mild depression and irritability tiredness, mild depression, nightmares, and loss of appetite.
Long-term use can precipitate in permanent tooth darkening (of a greenish tinge) and diminished sex drive.