Khat Crackdown Causes Consternation


The New York Times reports that a crackdown on khat, a stimulant plant popular in some Arab and East African countries, has made the leaves more expensive and harder to obtain in the U.S., where immigrants have openly chewed them for years despite their illicit status. "It's expensive, and it's not good," complains one deli worker, referring to the inferior product he has been buying lately. The story is pretty calm as these things go, noting that in places such as Somalia and Yemen khat chewing serves an important social function and "is considered as normal as sipping coffee"; that immigrant students and shopkeepers use khat to boost their concentration while studying and working; and that "it is legal in some European countries." For the sake of balance, however, the Times adds that khat "can have side effects, including hypertension, hallucinations, impotence and bouts of violence, prosecutors say." (Everyone knows that if you want an expert opinion about the dangers of a psychoactive substance, you should ask prosecutors.) To back up the alleged link between khat and violence (which got a lot of play around the time of the 1992 U.S. intervention in Somalia), the Times informs us that "khat has been linked to at least one murder, in 2004, when a man shot and killed a woman while trying to steal khat from a house in Minneapolis." By that logic, I suppose, "bouts of violence" should be counted among the "side effects" of jewelry and big-screen TVs.

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  1. Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!

  2. Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!!

  3. It’s nice to know that prosecutors are concerned about the sexual functioning of their male constituents.

  4. I once had a great conversation with a State Department guy who had spent many years in Yemen. Like State Department people he was very much of a touchy feely type. So he is telling me about Khat and how everyone chews it in Yeman, but how it wasn’t really a drug and wasnt’ addictive and wasn’t much of a problem in Yemen. I had never and still haven’t been to Yemen so listened with interest. Then we started talking about what it is like to live and work in Yemen. He basically said that it is a problem to get much work out of Yemni employees because the tradition is to quit working around 1 or 2 and go and chew khat for the rest of the day. He also said that no matter how much you pay people, they still will leave early and go chew khat and that this really does affect the development of the country because the practice is so widespread. Then in the next breath emphasized how the stuff really isn’t addictive and is no problem at all for Yemen. I don’t know if it is addictive since I have never been there and never tried it. But, I thought it was hysterical what this guy was saying; basically “no ever gets any work done or has much interest in doing anything but chewing khat, but khat is not addictive or any kind of a problem.”

    At the time my thought was more power to the Yemenis if that is how they want to live and I wondered why no one was selling it in the West and how long it would be before the drug warriors would get ahold of it. I guess my answer was about three years.

  5. You can’t get any work out of Emiritis after about 1 or 2 either, and to my knowledge, khat is not around much or even may be strictly forbidden (the drug laws in the UAE are insanely strict). The 80% of people who aren’t Emiritis are expected to work 5 or even 6 days a week for just a normal work week.

    Public sector Emiritis BARELY work 5 6-hour days.

  6. In the Emiritis defense, if I lived somewhere where it was that damned hot, I wouldn’t work more than five hours a day either.

  7. Offices and labs are certainly NOT hot over there (they have taken a/c to a new, shivering level in some places over there).

    Besides, the Pakistanis and Indians that do all the labor work all day (though they are required to take at least an hour siesta during the hottest part of the day). THEY are the ones working outside. Last June, I saw some TCNs building sun shades for cars in the blazing 47 C sun.


  8. True enough Timon19.

  9. Also, things get done in places like Pheonix which is about a typical Middle-Eastern summer just a little cooler, not as humid and not quite as long.

  10. fyodor:

    Your impotence is every man’s problem.

    We’re all in this together, brother.

  11. Khat: It’s the new Meth.

  12. Jesus fucking khat!

  13. BTW, the server squirrels are really fast and on the ball today. Is Ron Bailey juicing them with unregulated “smart drugs” or something? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

  14. Khat is bad. It kills time, ask any somali. thats why we dont have a functioning in somalia for the last 17 years, becoz, everyone is busy chewing khat. may be one day, somalis will wake up and build there country. i have no doubt, this will happen. Give somalis, 10 years. it will be the Dubai for Africa. Thanks to America & Canada, and the rest of the world who accepted our refugees. Somalia, will be the New Israel of the world.

  15. Abu Dhabi >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Phoenix regarding humidity.

    When it’s actually NICE there (November and December, mid-to-upper 80’s F), the morning fog is like nothing you’ve ever seen.

    It’s a miracle I got to work some days.

  16. Timon,

    Things are beautiful in Iraq in November and December too. The temps in Kuwait are not that bad in March either, although there is nothing pretty or nice about Kuwait at any temperature.

  17. Somalia, will be the New Israel of the world.

    What, the target of deranged homicidal maniacs and the whipping boy of the UN?

  18. I am SO looking forward to my UAE trip now. It’s August! Yay!

    If it weren’t so fucking humid I might evaporate.

    I don’t imagine you get much fog in Iraq. It’s seriously nasty. Put your hand out the window as you drive and you’ll find it soaked after about 5 seconds. All the cars get a nice mud-streaked “wash” when they go through the stuff. All the accumulated sand and dust mixes with the fog and creates sludge streaks.

  19. Khat Touch This!

  20. Speaking of non-mainstream mildly addictive recreational alkaloids, does anyone know offhand the legal status of betel nuts and their concoctions in this country?

    I’m holding in my hand a couple of commercially manufactured packets of something called “Gutkha”, which I found outside a store recently. It’s composed of betelnuts and tobacco, with some other flavors thrown in (lime and saffron). You chew it. Looks like maybe Pakistani or Indian.

    Just curious, is this stuff legal or illegal in this country? Or has the DEA just not got around to it yet?

  21. Everyone knows the government must protect us from ourselves.

  22. We’ve all seen the meth-mouth photos. How about some khat-mouth pix? Ew.

  23. JAL,
    According to Erowid, the Betel nut is not regulated in the US however US Customs has orders to seize the nuts upon importation. So, if you can find Betel nuts or nut products in the US you can legally buy, posses and use them.

  24. Insert feline joke here.

  25. Gosh, a crusade against khat, will a Harry Anslinger clone inform us of former crack houses being turned into khat houses for greater profit & to weaken the morals of American youth?
    There has to be a template on the computers of power craving bogus moralists who warn us of new dangers involving some alleged instances of abuse of an obscure herb by an avant garde of Americans. The stories all read alike. Just substitute the name of their new hobby horse for the old ‘menace’ to youth & national security.

  26. I haven’t researched the relation between between khat and betel leaf, but I know you can get a bag of betel leaf cheap at the nearby Saigon market.
    Let’s let that be our little secret.

  27. “US Customs has orders to seize the nuts upon importation. “

    It would almost be worth having a bag of them seized just so one could loudly and publically exclaim “Hey! Get your hands off my nuts!”

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