US authorities seize more than 20,000 pounds of khat

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Authorities in the US seized more than 20,000 pounds of the narcotic plant khat, Customs and Border Protection announced in a statement on Thursday.

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More than ten tons of the dried plant disguised as tea with an estimated street value of $3.6 million were confiscated from a shipment originating in Kenya and destined for the US.

It was intercepted in the Puget Sound area, near Seattle on the country’s west coast, and was reportedly the largest such seizure in the region.

Khat is native to Africa and parts of the southwestern Arabian Peninsula.

It contains cathinone, an addictive chemical that causes stimulation and excitement.

The plants leaves are commonly chewed or dried to be brewed into a tea.

Khat is classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic in the US – subject to the harshest punishments – and has been illegal there since 1987.

The seizure was a joint effort between US Homeland Security Agencies, Customs and Border Protection, and the US Coast Guard in the Seattle Maritime Port.

“This khat seizure demonstrates Customs and Border Protection officers’ effectiveness, dedication and expertise searching through the tens of thousands of international containers to find the proverbial needle in the haystack,” said J. Rene Ortega, CBP’s Port Director for the Area Port of Seattle in a statement.

“Khat remains illegal to import into the US and CBP officers will continue to seize khat and all illicit substances that pose a threat. Drug interdiction at our nation’s borders is one of many ways in which CBP helps to keep our communities safe.”

“This seizure underscores the importance of inter-agency cooperation,” added Capt. Patrick Hilbert, Sector Puget Sound Commander. “The Coast Guard and Customs and Border Patrol frequently train and operate together to safeguard our borders. This success is a direct result of that cooperation.”

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