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More Somali migrants say Britain should ban khat

Britain's large Somali community chews at least seven tons a week of a drug banned in most Western countries.

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Deep in the bowels of west London, amid the warren of subways running under Edgware Road, two Ethiopians stand behind a sparsely stocked kiosk.

Except for a few Mars Bars, they preside over a shop conspicuous for its lack of confectionary.

Customers instead make a beeline for two large fridges packed with tightly wrapped green bundles of khat – the Horn of Africa's favorite drug.

"It arrived this morning, but you must chew it in two or three days or it will go bad," one of the shopkeepers says as he passes a £4 ($6) bundle of the narcotic leaf to an eager-looking customer.

Although illegal in the United States since 1993 and banned throughout much of Europe, khat remains legal in Britain.

But community campaigners, backed by psychiatrists and a warning from the World Health Organization, have long believed that one of the active ingredients, cathonine, can lead to mental problems among regular users and have called for Britain to join much of the developed world by banning the drug.


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