Federal agents reported breaking up a smuggling ring responsible for most U.S. distribution of khat, which is illegal here but commonly used in East Africa and parts of the Arabian peninsula, says the Associated Press. A New York indictment charged 44 people with helping bring 25 tons of the plant into the U.S. in recent years. About 5 tons of the drug, worth $2 million, have been seized by agents during the 18-month investigation. A federal grand jury in Seattle indicted 18 more people on khat importing charges.
Khat is a common and socially accepted drug in Yemen, Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Users chew it, like loose tobacco, and generally experience a mild buzz that lasts for anywhere between 90 minutes to a few hours. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Thomas Kelly in Minneapolis said that while Somalis may consider khat to be a part of their culture, the money from its sale sometimes flows back to criminal enterprises. Khat involved in the new case went to Ohio, Minnesota, Maine, Massachusetts, Utah, Washington, Illinois, and Washington, D.C.