Khat Running Out of Lives





Smoke Signals (cc#8) – Khat Running Out of Lives















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      Khat
      Running Out of Lives

      Canada’s Government on
      the Ban Wagon

      ?? Although khat
      (Catha edulis) has been chewed and brewed in tea by Muslim cultures for
      centuries, only recently has it come to the attention of the Canadian government.
      Apparently the fact that nearly half of the 50,000 Somalis living in Canada
      use khat in cultural and spiritual gatherings is too much for our officials
      to bear, and so they want to ban it.


      ??? Like the
      Chinese herb ma huang, khat contains the active ingredient norpseudoephedrine.
      The synthetic form, ephedrine, is sold over the counter in cold remedies
      and diet pills. Both forms are close chemical cousins of methamphetamine.
      As cannabis is safer than Marinol, so khat in its natural form is mostly
      harmless. It is rich in vitamin C, which counteracts some of the bad effects,
      and the taste is, shall we say, an acquired one.

      We know it’s legal, but…

      ???
      Though the possession of khat is still legal in Canada, some confused customs
      officials have been seizing khat at Canadian airports, sometimes even pressing
      charges. The ordeal of Sheila McCusker, who was found returning to Canada
      from the UK with two suitcases of the herb in October 1996, illustrates
      the problems. McCusker’s lawyer is mounting a constitutional challenge
      over Canada Customs’ trafficking charges. He says the charges violate McCusker’s
      constitutional rights because khat arrests are not carried out consistently.
      He’s right.


      ??? Osman Ahmed
      Ali was arrested last October at Halifax International Airport bringing
      a suitcase full of khat into Canada. Halifax Judge Patrick Curran acquitted
      the man because khat isn’t named as an illegal drug. Although khat is classified
      as a new drug under the Food and Drug Act it does not appear in the current
      Narcotic Control Act. However, the authors of the new Controlled Drugs
      and Substances Act, seemingly pleased with the results of prohibiting cannabis,
      coca and opium, are about to change all that. The Act will outlaw trafficking,
      importing and cultivating khat.

      What the Hell?

      ??? Does this
      remind anyone else of our first marijuana laws? Policy-makers apparently
      don’t see any problem with depriving a minority of their cultural heritage.
      As the federal Justice Department’s senior counsel Paul Saint-Denis delicately
      put it, “It doesn’t really matter what the hell they do in Ethiopia, the
      fact is that this is Canada and these are our laws.” Makes me ashamed to
      be a Canadian. Expect a black market in synthetic ephedrine.


      Matthew Elrod



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