Vice Squad
Monday, February 09, 2004
Khat Under Review in Britain

Friend of Vice Squad Phoebe Rice brings to our attention this BBC report on British investigations into khat (or qat). Chewing the leaves of this plant, which contains an ephedrine-like stimulant, is a popular pastime in Somalia and other parts of East Africa. Khat (pronounced "cot") is generally harvested in Ethiopia, Yemen, or Kenya, and rushed to various markets (in Mogadishu, for example), as unrefrigerated leaves lose some of their psychoactive compounds fairly quickly after being removed from the plant.

Chewing a lot of khat can produce some adverse health effects, and it is these that have prompted the British review. The linked BBC article reports that a ban on khat in Britain is under consideration, though it sounds as if, for now, that measure remains unlikely -- khat is consumed by many Africans living in London and other parts of the UK. In the US, of course, khat is already banned.

A BBC story from December notes how falling coffee prices have induced Ethiopian farmers to switch to khat production.

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