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Khat use soars in Canada

The popularity of the African hallucinogen khat is taking off, Canada Customs officials said following a seizure of the drug at Calgary International Airport.

Customs officers stopped a passenger who arrived off an airliner from England yesterday, and discovered 6.4 kg of the drug in two suitcases.

"There have been about 60 seizures like this at Pearson International in Toronto, and this could be just the tip of the iceberg here," said Canada Customs spokesman Gordon Luchia, adding yesterday's seizure had an estimated street value of $1,300.

Khat is a plant cultivated in Kenya, Ethiopia, Yemen and Somalia. "When the leaves are ingested, a euphoric effect is felt, ranging from increased alertness and happiness to insomnia, anorexia and hallucinations," said Luchia.

"Consumption of large quantities can cause slurred speech, staggering, an inability to concentrate and can provoke outrage."

Luchia said the usual smuggling route for the drug, which is illegal in Canada, is through the British Isles.

"It's moved from Africa into England, where it isn't illegal, and from there into Canada," he said. Hussein Ahmed Idan, of Calgary, was charged by the RCMP with possession of a controlled substance for the purposes of trafficking.

He's slated to appear in provincial court tomorrow.



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