Vice Squad
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Is Khat Illegal in the US?

Khat is legal in Britain and, I believe, the Netherlands, but not in much of the rest of the developed world: Khat is illegal in Canada and the US, for instance. Or is it?

A stimulant, khat leaves are chewed like tobacco in social settings in Africa and the Middle East, where it was been used for centuries. Khat technically isn't illegal in the U.S. -- but the cathinone it contains is. That mild stimulant, however, begins to break down into legal cathine as soon as the leaves are picked; and it's nearly is absent 72 hours after harvest.

In this country, the federal court system has little experience with prosecuting khat cases and hasn't yet established guidelines for how the drug should be handled for testing.

In Seattle, according to the linked article, khat charges were dropped against some defendants, apparently in part because it was unclear whether the khat in question could be shown to have enough cathinone to be be illegal. The New York case mentioned in the article resulted in a mixed verdict, so it remains possible to be convicted of khat trafficking in the US.

I was in London last week, where khat is legal. Somehow the British civilisation stumbles along without locking up khat sellers. I managed to pick up -- no, not some khat, but Khat, while I was there. And if you are a British subject travelling to Canada, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has a warning for you:

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