Khat, a green, leafy shrub that can be chewed to unlock a stimulant effect, is typically used in southern Arabia and Eastern Africa, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
But U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers last month uncovered 112 pounds of the plant here in Philadelphia, authorities said Wednesday. And in America, khat is classified as a schedule 1 narcotic - the most restrictive category used by the DEA.
Investigators on Nov. 26 seized three international air parcels containing khat that arrived on a flight from Austria and ended up at an express mail facility near the Philadelphia International Airport.
Officials said the packages all appeared to be either uncut cloth rolls or corrugated paperboard rolls. Two parcels, one containing about 54 pounds of khat and the second about 30 pounds, were destined for Connecticut. The third parcel, which weighed about 28 pounds, was slated to go to Illinois.
Altogether, the seized khat has an estimated street value of about $33,600, according to authorities.
"Khat remains an illegal substance in the United States and as such, Customs and Border Protection officers remain vigilant to intercept khat and other illicit and dangerous drugs at our nation's international ports of entry," acting CBP port director for the Port of Philadelphia Tarance Drafts said in a statement.