Drug Policy

Qat's in the Bag

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Last Friday, Washington, D.C. police concluded a critical covert investigation by busting a coffee shop frequented by Africans and Middle Easterners, and arresting 34 people for possession and distribution of qat. In addition to being a helpful word in Scrabble, qat is a mild stimulant chewed in Africa and some parts of Asia—as well as by a good portion of the city's Ethiopian cab drivers. Because it delivers a light buzz and isn't tobacco or alcohol, the federal government has deemed the stuff illegal.

The next night turned out to be one of the bloodiest in D.C. city history. Seven people died in what Mayor Adrian Fenty said, "can only be described as an unbelievably high level of violent crime to take place in a short time."

Thank goodness they got those qat-chewers off the streets, or the carnage may have well have been worse.

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  1. When did all substances that alter your mood become illegal? Is there some law on the book that says “you cannot get a buzz without government approval”????

  2. IIRC, a medical journal did a spit-sight ranking of drugs and rated them as to their overall dangerousness, given their physiological, addictive, and other social effects.

    Khat (Qat) rated rock bottom, just under caffeine and a good distance from marijuana.

    But I feel very safe, knowing that my government is protecting me from it.

  3. Actually you get pretty darned high chewing that stuff. No reason to ban it, but just saying.

  4. Oh, so it looks like it was criminalized almost immediately after the Black Hawk Down shit that happened in Somalia. The Do-Something Squad sure showed those damn East Africans who the real boss is!

  5. What kind of high is it?

    “you cannot get a buzz without government approval”

    We can’t have people going around enjoying themselves, Bingo. At least not in non-government-approved ways.

  6. Color me naive, but did Radley intend to illustrate a cause-effect relationship between the getting rid of qat and a spike in violence. Not that I wouldn’t buy that assertion. Just askin’

  7. did Radley intend to illustrate a cause-effect relationship between the getting rid of qat and a spike in violence

    No, he was pointing out that they are having terrible, real crime and the cops are spending their time busting cabbies using qat instead of battling the murderers.

  8. did Radley intend to illustrate a cause-effect relationship between the getting rid of qat and a spike in violence

    On the other hand, if the crime rate had suddenly dropped below zero, the ending of the “QAT epidemic” surely would have been the cause.

  9. Whenever I hear about qat, my main thought is how to get East Africans to sell it to a white guy like me.

  10. I’m picturing the police chuggin down Monster or Red Bull or Amp energy drinks during the critical covert investigation.

  11. That’s some krazy qat.

  12. Whenever I hear about qat, my main thought is how to get East Africans to sell it to a white guy like me.

    Grow a scuzzy Fu-Manchu like Jason Patric in “Narc”.

  13. What kind of high is it?

    Well, cathinone is a powerful stimulant, closely related to amphetamine. Apparently it interferes with the reuptake of epinephrine (causing the stimulant effects), and causes neurons to dump large quantities of serotonin and dopamine into the synapses, causing euphoria.

    From the great and powerful Wikipedia:

    Khat consumption induces mild euphoria and excitement. Individuals become very talkative under the influence of the drug and may appear to be unrealistic and emotionally unstable. Khat can induce manic behaviors and hyperactivity. Khat is an effective anorectic and its use also results in constipation. Dilated pupils (mydriasis), which are prominent during khat consumption, reflect the sympathomimetic effects of the drug, which are also reflected in increased heart rate and blood pressure. A state of drowsy hallucinations (hypnagogic hallucinations) may result coming down from khat use as well. Withdrawal symptoms that may follow prolonged khat use include lethargy, mild depression, nightmares, and slight tremor. Long term use can precipitate the following effects: negative impact on liver function, permanent tooth darkening (of a greenish tinge), susceptibility to ulcers, and diminished sex drive. Khat is usually not an addictive drug, although those who are addicted generally cannot stay without it for more than 4-5 days, feeling tired and having difficulty concentrating.

  14. What kind of high is it?

    From Wiki:

    Both of khat’s major active ingredients – cathine and cathinone – are phenylalkylamines, meaning they are in the same class of chemicals as amphetamines. In fact, cathinone and cathine have a very similar molecular structure to amphetamine.

    Sounds good to me… where can I get some?

  15. Please, brotherben, quit reading my mind! It’s creepy!! 🙂
    JMR

  16. JMR, you think it’s creepin’ you out…

  17. Grow a scuzzy Fu-Manchu like Jason Patric in “Narc”.

    Isn’t that the one with the guy who used a loaded shotgun as a crack pipe and ended up blowing his own head off?

  18. Isn’t that the one with the guy who used a loaded shotgun as a crack pipe and ended up blowing his own head off?

    That’s the one! Nice movie.

  19. What law was broken?? The post article just says “charged with possession” of qat. I seriously doubt there’s a specific law against qat, considering most people have never heard of it.

  20. Elemenope and Art-P.O.G.,

    You two should be movie critics. You totally sold me on watching Narc. Any other recommendations?

  21. What law was broken?? The post article just says “charged with possession” of qat. I seriously doubt there’s a specific law against qat, considering most people have never heard of it.

    Since when do you have to wait until the law is broken to arrest people?

    That’s sooooooo 10-years-ago.

  22. Qat’s obviously one of those drugs that make Negroes think they’re just as good as white men.

  23. Naga Sadow,

    What are some of your favorite genres?

    I will say that my favorite “recent” movies are probably “Atonement”, “Lars and the Real Girl”, “There Will Be Blood”, “Iron Man”, “Juno”, and “Speed Racer”.

  24. Qat or Khat is a Schedule 1 drug under it’s active chemical name “Cathinone.”

  25. “Whenever I hear about qat, my main thought is how to get East Africans to sell it to a white guy like me.”

    Actually, you don’t need to find anyone to sell it to you. Just head down to The United States Botanic Garden (it’s RIGHT next to the Capitol reflecting/cesspool) and you’ll find it growing down on the first floor. My friends and I stumbled across it about a year and a half ago. I think it’s meant to be chewed dry, but if you just snag a couple of leaves and chew them, you’ll get the buzz you’re looking for, courtesy of your and your fellow citizen’s tax dollars!

  26. FreeDC:

    I doubt it will be there much longer, now that you’ve let the, er, cat out of the bag.

  27. Embarrassingly (for a guy who quotes movies like they’re going out of style), I haven’t seen much very recently.

    Off the top of my head, “Southland Tales” was quite good. I’d also recommend “Kingdom of Heaven” (Director’s Cut, not the studio-raped cinema release). “300” was quite entertaining. “Sunshine” was surprisingly good (until the last ten minutes or so, but that can be forgiven for the rest was quality).

    As far as recent past, the “postmodern classics” (“Matrix”, “Fight Club”, “Memento”) are all good. I really enjoyed “I, Robot” (and Asimov purists can suck my left nut), “Minority Report” (ditto P. K. Dick purists, right nut), and “Donnie Darko”. I also found “A Scanner Darkly” to be profoundly good and deeply personally disturbing, but I think one’s appreciation of that film has to do with the breadth of one’s pharmacological experiences.

    Best trashy movie: That’s a tie between “Devil’s Advocate” and “Bound”.

    For classics, one cannot go wrong with “12 Angry Men”, “Dr. Strangelove”, and “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

    Best use of dramatic irony: “Shoot ’em Up”, perhaps the most violent movie I’ve ever seen, in service to a deeply cynical gun control message.

    Oh, and I *fucking hated* “The Golden Compass”, which was a shame because I enjoyed the books.

  28. Sounds good to me… where can I get some?

    Are there somalians or other east africans in your town? If so, patronize their places of business/gathering places. Restaurants are OK, but hookah bars are better. If you go into a hookah bar, and everyone in their is an East African male, preferably all speaking Somalian, you’re at the right place.

    My buddies and I often buy a hookah and don’t finish it, so we give what’s left of our smoke to one of the guys who is sitting around chewing the stuff. It’s polite for them to give something in return. Once one of the guys bought me Chai tea, but every other time, they’ve given me a handful of their Qat.

    That’s easier than buying it. If you go into such a place and try to buy it, they’ll think your DEA and clam up.

  29. That said, it’s a jittery buzz that’s nothing special, it tastes vile, and daily use has been linked to impotence.

    It’s not something to wait out in the rain for, IMHO, and I certainly wouldn’t spend money or risk prosecution in order to get my hands on it.

  30. Shame! SHAME!!! on those who use Wikipedia for drug information.

    Yes, it’s quick, but the info at Erowid.org is bound to be more accurate, plus there are usually user experiences you can look through to give you some idea about what might happen if you decide to ingest said drug.

    It is my understanding that chewing Qat (rather like chewing Salvia) is something that takes a lot of time for you to get the effects. Anyone want to weigh in on that?

    WRT government bans on stuff, it isn’t quite to the point that “everything not compulsory is forbidden”, although one could make a case for “everything psychoactive not profitable for campaign contributors is forbidden”.

  31. Hey ya’ll, I just watched I Know Who Killed Me the other night. Truly a new American classic that will reshape the way we look at film.

    I tried qat while racing in Arabia many years ago with a horse named Bildago. A scrappy little pinto who gave his all. I had to put him down though after I pushed him too hard while on the qat. I went back to Skoal after that and never thought twice about qat again.

  32. but I think one’s appreciation of that film has to do with the breadth of one’s pharmacological experiences.

    I don’t know, my own experience with drugs is limited to say the least, but “A Scanner Darkly” was quality (ditto “Minority Report” and actually all the movies you’ve listed except the ones I haven’t seen and can’t speak on).

    Some of my all time favorite movies: Dr. Strangelove, Donnie Darko, Ghost World, American Splendor, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, Glory, Do the Right Thing, The Big Lebowski, Enter the Dragon, Unforgiven, Gangs of New York and Alphaville.

  33. Naga Sadow, if I had to put together a must-see list…

    Excellent Lesbian Noir Films (weary you with tits, then backhand you with the plot!): Bound, Femme Fatale, Wild Things

    Dystopias: Minority Report, Code 46, Gattaca, Equilibrium (a stylistic favorite), V for Vendetta, Demolition Man, Matrix Trilogy, Children of Men (best technical cinematography evar!!, Southland Tales

    Sci-fi and Fantasy: Even Numbered Star Trek films, LOTR – Extended, I, Robot, Sunshine, Aliens, Blade Runner (DC)

    Just Fine Films: L.A. Confidential, The Usual Suspects, Pulp Fiction, Chocolat, Memento, Fight Club, Indiana Jones I & III, Sneakers, Casino Royale

    Older Fare: Twelve Angry Men, Inherit the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, The Graduate, Dr. Strangelove, The Conversation

  34. Some of my all time favorite movies: Dr. Strangelove, Donnie Darko, Ghost World, American Splendor, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, Glory, Do the Right Thing, The Big Lebowski, Enter the Dragon, Unforgiven, Gangs of New York and Alphaville.

    All damn good. I must say I’ve gotten into Linklater lately; besides “A Scanner Darkly”, there’s a delightful little ditty called “Tape”, and the somewhat trippy “Waking Life”

  35. Shame! SHAME!!! on those who use Wikipedia for drug information.

    Yes, it’s quick, but the info at Erowid.org is bound to be more accurate, plus there are usually user experiences you can look through to give you some idea about what might happen if you decide to ingest said drug.

    Normally I’d be the first to shill for Erowid (their info is damn useful if you ever reckon doing any drug ever), but in this case Wikipedia’s info seems fairly on the spot.

  36. I never thought I’d see QAT anywhere other than a Scrabble board.

    Now if Reason uses the word QI in a blog post, I’ll be really impressed…

  37. Esquire had a good (funny) piece by Kevin Fedarko on the khat trade in Djibouti. It also appears in the 2007 The Best American Travel Writing compliation.

  38. there’s a delightful little ditty called “Tape”, and the somewhat trippy “Waking Life”

    Waking Life was terrific. I’m going to have to check out “Tape”.

    I can’t believe you didn’t put “Mulholland Dr.” on your list, man! Ah, well, there are a lot of movies I’m really fond of that I can’t think of right now…Oh, “Superbad”, “40 Year-Old Virgin”, “The 5th Element”, “Krull”, “Darkman”, “Trainspotting”, “Frida”, “Pollock”, Basqiat”, “Ed Wood”, “Pan’s Labyrinth”.

  39. Oh, the title. Right.
    High in Hell.

  40. And, what do you know? Here it is:
    http://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ0906KHAT_182
    Is this Internet thing cool or what?

  41. You can’t use qat in Scrabble; only English words qualify. You’ve changed man; it used to be about the rule of law.

  42. Sorry, B.B.
    You’re obviously just a Stephan Fatsis wannabe.
    “QAT” is, in fact, in the official Scrabble Dictionary.

  43. No, YOU’RE in the official Scrabble Dictionary!

  44. I know you are but what am I?

  45. Is it Qat-urday yet?

    What are our choices of FLAVOR? Does it come in chocolate (my favorite), strawberry…?

    I need some euphoria right about now!

  46. …and while we are on the subject of “political correctness”…

    Political Correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional,
    illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream
    media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible
    to pick up a turd by the clean end.

    Oh sorry…I thought…musta been the Qat or was it dawg? I am con-puzzled.

  47. My Sudanese friend says that men will typically chew qat while laying on couches and will often fall asleep while bullshitting and chewing qat.

    I also recall something about qat having a fairly short shelf life and the cathinone breaking down to something more akin to mundane caffeine a few days after harvest.

  48. Elemenope,

    Look up Utu. Geoff Murphy did that and The Silent Earth before moving to the US and making a series of unremarkable films.

  49. My favourite movie is El Cid, followed closely by Zulu. Please forgive me . . .

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