Chewing the narcotic khat leaf: should Americans think of it as like coffee or cocaine?
Khat is chewed legally as a social tonic and stimulant in the Horn of Africa and parts of the Middle East, but it is illegal in the USA. In America khat users are members of the Ethiopian, Somalian, and Yemen immigrant communities. Although it is unlikely that other Americans are likely to chew khat, it is possible that they may eventually use it in other forms. For instance, young Israelis who frequent clubs have begun to experiment with a pill known as "hagiagat," a Hebrew word that may be translated as "party khat." A Somali immigrant, Starlin Mohamud, is writing a dissertation on khat at San Diego State University. Apparently it focuses on social problems associated with khat use among immigrant groups in the USA. For more, see here.
Somali Islamists gone, so ‘khat’ is back
Perhaps the most telling sign of Somalia's remarkable power shift is the rapid return to Mogadishu's streets of the leafy twigs known as 'khat'.
Traditionally chewed by most Somali men, but outlawed since June by Islamic courts, the mild stimulant reappeared within hours of Mogadishu's recapture by government forces last week.
Middle East Online reports.
Khat tales: Trouble brews over Somalis' favourite drug
The Globe and Mail reports (11 June 2005) that chewing khat in Somalia is "like drinking coffee after a meal here in Canada." Chewing khat for recreational and religious purposes is a habit as common as lighting a cigarette in Somalia. But in Canada, khat has been blacklisted as a narcotic ever since Parliament passed the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act in the late 1990s.
While border officials are trumpeting seizures of $3.2-million worth of khat since January, Somali immigrants in Toronto are blaming the crackdown for festering tensions in their community. Last month, officials seized $1.1-million worth of the drug in the Greater Toronto Area, slightly up from $980,000 during the comparable period in 2004. Find the full story here.
Khat Shortage in Somalia
BBC News reported in 2001 on the shortage of khat leaves in Somalia after a trade ban was imposed by Kenya earlier that year. Prices of the leaf quadrupled overnight, while militiamen set up road blocks to ensure they get hold of part of the dwindling supply. Khat has become popular among militiamen, but has been bad for the economy and for people's health. Khat is banned in the US, Canada, Sweden and Norway. Find the full story here.
Warning: May produce extreme loquacity, inane laughing, and eventually semicoma (Khat)
The University of Pennsylvania's African Studies Center has a page, entitled "Everything about Khat," which can be found here. DrugScopes' page on khat can be found here. Information on khat in Somalia can be found here.