Published November 17, 2014
Khat is a plant that grows in parts of Africa, mainly in Somalia and Ethiopia. Investigators say when they made the bust the plants were very fresh as if they had just been brought into the country. Now investigators are trying to figure out how it got to Georgia and where the drugs were going.
Police said they found two suitcases containing khat when they pulled over 31-year-old Hussein Dahir Sheikaden for a traffic stop. Investigators said the plant shoots were wrapped in banana leaves.
Sheikaden is a native of Somalia who's in the U.S. on a work visa.
"[The] person we intercepted it from, called a mule, he was transporting it from point A to point B," Mayton said.
Police say they are now trying find out where the drugs originated.
It's a drug some members of the Bartow-Cartersville drug task force have never seen.
"In 21 years, this is the first time I've even seen this drug," said Captain Mark Mayton.
Investigators say khat only grows in parts of Africa and a couple of European countries. Khat is called a cultural drug in the Somali and Ethiopian communities.
"People who use khat chew a shoot. It's a stimulant, like speed or meth. It's also a hallucinogenic drug, like mushrooms," said Capt. Mayton.
Police say khat is rare and pricey.
"Each one of these bundles is about $60 and [there were] 400 of them, so it's about equivalent to a quarter of a million dollars," Capt. Mayton said.
It's the first time many of the drug officers have ever dealt with khat. They also hope it's the last time it turns up in this part of the world.
"We know it comes from across the Atlantic," Capt. Mayton said. "We want to know what those travel corridors are so we can target those individuals."
Sheikaden was arrested and charged with possession with intent to distribute. Police couldn't charge him with trafficking because khat is so uncommon in Georgia there isn't even a state law that covers the drug.