Source: Toronto Star (Canada)
Pubdate: Sun, 06 Sep 1998


Khat is a green leaf grown in Kenya and Ethiopia. It is chewed while fresh
and its bitter juice swallowed.

Khat, which is addictive, is mainly used by East Africans, especially
Somalis. In Somalia, khat chewing is socially acceptable.

After the arrival of Somali refugees in Canada a few years ago, khat became
a hot-selling commodity among the Somali population, estimated at about
80,000 in the Toronto area.

Since last fall, khat is under the Controlled Substance Act, which means it
is illegal and being convicted of possessing it carries a sentence of up to
three years and a $1,000 fine.

That said, one hopes that this law will put an end to the khat trade in
Canada. But that is not what is happening; khat is openly traded in the
markets of major Canadian cities, especially Toronto.

Many more shops are opening and the khat business is flourishing. Now people
chew in their homes, on the streets and even behind the wheel.

The irony of the situation is the indifference of the federal government to
the khat trade. khat is confiscated only at major entry points into the
country (airports and at the border with the United States).

Once khat hits the streets, the traders have nothing to worry about, because
there is no one who will go after them. They sell, trade and distribute as
they wish.

This "do-nothing" attitude of the government benefits only the khat traders.

Let me give you an idea. One hundred to 150 grams of the stuff costs as
little as 75 cents Canadian in Kenya, where the plantations are.

The same amount sells for about #2 (roughly $6 Canadian) in the United
Kingdom, where khat is legal and where the bulk of khat consumed in Canada
comes from.

In Canada, the same 100 to 150 grams fetches about $65 to $70 Canadian. It
is rumoured that most of the khat proceeds end up in the accounts of the
Somali warlords in Rome.

It is known that traders use a network to bring khat into the country. One
way is to use mules, mainly white Canadian and British citizens, who carry
the stuff through airports. Another way is to use the cargo system and the
last method is to smuggle it through the border using tractor trailers.

The government and the media ignore this problem as long as it affects an
obscure segment of society. Why does the government pass a law that it can't

Most of the law enforcement agencies do not know what khat is or what it
looks like.

The federal government should implement its law regarding khat more
diligently and consistently or else repeal the act so khat can be regulated
and taxed and generate some revenue, as most European nations do.

If the government will do that, the khat price will be $7 and not the $70
that the traders charge now.

Farah Jacma


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Checked-by: Don Beck