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Dulles CBP Seizes More Than 152 Pounds of Dried Khat Leaves

Release Date: 
March 19, 2015

STERLING, Va. –U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at Washington Dulles International Airport discovered bunches of green leafy plant products in two cardboard boxes recently. Officers suspected that they knew what they found, and CBP’s Laboratory and Scientific Services analysis confirmed their belief Monday.

It was two large shipments, approximately 153 pounds, of catha edulis, commonly known as khat. What made these seizures different from previous khat seizures was the condition of the khat. The shipment consisted of dried leaves. Most khat that CBP has encountered is shipped in its fresh state bundled with stems in banana leaves to preserve its moisture.

According to the DEA, khat has a street value of between $300 and $600 per kilogram. The street value of this seizure ranges between $21,000 and $41,000.

No arrests have been made.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers intercepted 114 pounds oh khat at Washington Dulles International Airport January 28, 2015.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers intercepted 114 pounds oh khat at Washington Dulles International Airport January 28, 2015.

“It’s difficult to say with certainty if khat importers are utilizing this dried method to avoid detection, but now that our scientists have confirmed the leaves as khat, we’ll be taking a closer look at similar shipments in baggage and in air freight,” said Wayne Biondi, CBP Port Director for the Port of Washington, DC. “As with these two seizures, Customs and Border Protection officers and our laboratory scientists quickly adapt to evolving threats, especially to those involving controlled substances.”

The first shipment, of a little more than 114 pounds, arrived from Kenya January 28 manifested as “dry henna leaves” and destined for the nation’s capital. The second contained a little more than 38 pounds similarly manifested as dry henna leaves and arrived February 9 from Kenya. That shipment was destined for Seattle.

CBP detained both shipments and shipped samples to its Laboratory and Scientific Services in Savannah, Ga., for analysis and identification. The lab completed that analysis February 10 and Monday, respectively.

Khat contains two principal alkaloids – cathinone, an addictive amphetamine-like stimulant and a scheduled I controlled substance, and cathine, a scheduled IV controlled substance. It is native to the Arabian Peninsula, and particularly in Yemen.

The World Health Organization classified khat as a drug of abuse in 1980.

Dried khat leaves are smoked, made into a paste and chewed, or brewed in tea. Long-term use or abuse can cause insomnia, anorexia, gastric disorders, depression, liver damage and cardiac complications.

Click on National Institute on Drug Abuse and the DEA Khat Fact Sheet for more information on khat.

CBP routinely conducts random inspections operations on passengers and air cargo searching for narcotics, currency, weapons and other prohibited or illicit products.

Visit CBP’s Border Security webpage to learn how CBP conducts this mission at and between our nation’s 328 Ports of Entry.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017