Nearly 7 tons of stimulant drug khat seized at NJ terminal: officials

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The feds seized nearly 7 tons of the stimulant drug khat during separate inspections at a New Jersey container terminal, Customs and Border Protection officials said Friday. 

One shipment was falsely listed as peppermint matcha tea leaves, while the other was supposedly herbal foot soak.

Officers first conducted an exam on a container that appeared to contain the Illegal green, leafy plant June 3 at the Port of New York and New Jersey’s Newark location, according to a news release from the agency. 

The manifest listed the shipment — which came from Kenya and was destined for Minnesota —  as 90 pieces of peppermint matcha tea leaves. 

But officials confirmed the next day that it was actually 10,685 pounds — around 5.3 tons — of khat.

A second suspicious shipment arrived four days later, officials said. 

The shipment, from South Africa and destined for Pennsylvania, was listed as 119 pieces of herbal foot soak. 

Again, investigators confirmed the next day that the shipment was instead 2,969 pounds — about 1.5 tons — of khat. 

The drugs, which were seized, have a combined street value of $3.8 million, officials said. 

Khat is typically grown in the Arabian Peninsula and many parts of Africa, and is chewed for a stimulant effect. 

The World Health Organization named it a drug of abuse in 1980.

The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies the substance as a schedule 1 narcotic — the most restrictive — when its leaves are freshly picked. The principal components, cathine and cathinone, are considered controlled substances in the US.

“These khat seizures demonstrate Customs and Border Protection officers’ effectiveness at searching through the haystack of tens of thousands of international containers to find the proverbial needle of illicit contraband,” Marty Raybon, CBP’s acting director for the New York Field Office, said in a statement.

“Khat remains illegal to import into the United States, and so CBP officers will continue to seize khat when we encounter it. Drug interdiction at our nation’s borders is one way in which CBP helps to keep our communities safe.”

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