Khat, pronounced “cot,” is a flowering plant native to East Africa. The plant is a powerful stimulant that has been used for centuries in Africa. The leaves of the plant are chewed or, less frequently, dried and used in a tea to produce a state of euphoria and stimulation.  Practical uses of the drug include fighting physical fatigue among workers or for increased alertness by drivers and students. However, the predominate use of khat is recreational.

What Are the Effects of Khat?

Chewing Khat leaves, or drinking Khat tea, causes stimulation, excitement, and a mild euphoric feeling. The effects have been compared to a very mild version of those associated with cocaine. Khat immediately increases blood pressure and heart rate.  Effects typically last for about 1 to 3 hours. Side effects include insomnia, loss of appetite, and mild depression. More serious side effects can include heart disease, mouth cancer, and high blood pressure. There is no known physical addiction associated with Khat, but psychological dependence can develop.

Is Khat Illegal?

Yes. Fresh Khat leaves, those picked within 48 hours, contain cathinone, a schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Around 48 hours after picking, the chemical composition of Khat leaves breaks down leaving cathine, which is considered a schedule VI drug under the CSA.  Flakka, a synthetic version of khat, is also illegal.

What About Khat Used for Religious Purposes?

No case involving religious use of Khat has been heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. However, in 2006, the Court held that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, the government must demonstrate a compelling interest in banning a drug used in a sincere exercise of religion. Under this ruling, it is likely that the Court would allow the use of Khat in sincere exercises of religion.

Do I Need a Lawyer for My Khat Problem?

If you have been charged with a drug crime under the Controlled Substances Act, such as possession or sale of Khat, you should contact a drug lawyer immediately. A lawyer can help you to understand your rights under the law, and can explain any defenses that may be available to you.