It’s sold as an “herbal stimulant” in the UK, but a plant popular with Somalis and others from North Africa contains an amphetamine-like stimulant already illegal in the US and elsewhere.
The ban, reports Kuwait Times, will kill a thriving business in khat sales in the UK. The drug is sold openly and distributed to Somalis, Yemenis and Ethiopians across the country.
The active ingredient, cathinone, has been manufactured in a related form – methcathinone -and sold in the US under the street name “Cat,” but is less popular than the stronger high from methamphetamine. The plant itself has been imported illegally into the US and a major ring was busted by the DEA in 2006. The ring was responsible for importing more than 25 tons of the plant.
Khat is used by native populations in a manner similar to how cocaine leaves find use among indigenous South Americans. A wad of leaves is placed in the cheek like chewing tobacco for the stimulant effects. In this manner, both cocaine and khat act as mild stimulants. Both can be addictive, however.
In Britain, chewing khat had been legal, although extracting out the active ingredient was not. Users are reacting vocally to the ban, claiming khat is no more addictive than coffee and that the crackdown amounts to a cultural purge.
Said one dealer, “Why target us? You will never find somebody falling over on the street or fighting from khat like they do when they are drunk.”
A side issue, but one that may have driven the policy change, is that illegal or even terrorist organizations may be using the plant to fund their operations. This is not unheard of, since other criminal organizations use their access to drugs for financing. In particular, drug cartels in Mexico have been caught exchanging drugs for guns.
Source: Kuwait Times