Multiple arrests have been made in Houston after investigators in Texas discovered a chewable African plant that is believed to be connected to terrorism groups.
The Austin American-Statesman reported Sunday that Muslim civil-rights activists now want to know whether the Texas Department of Public Safety was out of line.
In a statewide assessment last year, the agency included olive-shaped leaves known as khat on its list of things to watch for.
The plant is a stimulant used in Africa for hundreds of years. State investigators say the sales of plants could benefit terrorist groups, but some disagree. A Texas DPS threat overview calls khat the “chewable narcotic plant grown in the Horn of Africa whose sale abroad is suspected to benefit Africa-based terrorist organizations such as al-Shabaab.”
The AAS reported that the assessment is based on Steven McCraw’s congressional testimony more than ten years ago. He was assistant FBI director and is now director of the DPS. McCraw said it is likely that khat proceeds “pass through the hands of suspected [Islamic militants] and other persons with possible ties to terrorist groups.”
Last year, a state trooper who made a routine traffic stop near Houston saw two men chewing khat. DPS spokesman Tom Vinger says an investigation hasn’t prompted terrorism-related charges, but has led to seizing 1,000 pounds of the plant, according to the Associated Press.
The khat plant is not illegal, but the active chemicals in it, cathinone and cathine, are.
The Drug Enforcement Agency compares khat to cocaine or methamphetamine, the Houston Chronicle reported.
"Chronic khat abuse can result in violence and suicidal depression," according to the DEA.
Khat can cause delusions, paranoia, nightmares, hallucinations and hyperactivity, the DEA adds. Usually, the leaves are chewed, and then retained in the cheek like tobacco. The leaves can also be dried out and smoked or sprinkled on food.