Running Out of Lives
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.
??? 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.