Khat, a leafy narcotic grown in Africa, has been seized in record amounts in the Twin Cities for the past six months, says the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Because its tobacco-like leaf begins to lose potency after 48 hours, the illegal stimulant is shipped from Africa or Europe by overnight mail, making suburban UPS and Federal Express stores unwitting drug transporters. The delivery companies are catching on and alerting police. Yesterday, authorities intercepted 40 pounds of khat (pronounced “cot” and sometimes spelled qat) at a Federal Express site.
Some patrol officers have come across khat and thrown it out, not realizing that the small bundle of leaves and twigs, packaged in banana leaves to preserve moisture, warrants a charge of fifth-degree drug possession. Each “piece” or “bundle” of khat sells for an estimated $25 to $50 on the street. Said one law enforcer: “And Customs (officials) are telling us we’re only getting about 5 to 10 percent of the packages being shipped. If you do the math, it’s a multimillion dollar industry, even just in Minnesota.”