ROCKFORD, February 04, 2009 (WREX) -
Rockford has a major drug problem, but police arrest a man for something
most of us have never heard of. It's call khat, an illegal plant used in
some African cultures to get high.
On Monday, Ahmed Hussein Hassan of Chicago, 32, was arrested after he
took possession of a package mailed from overseas to a hotel in the area
of East State Street and Interstate 90. Police claim the package
contained more than 15 pounds of khat, a shrub that grows in the Horn of
"The package was intercepted in Philadelphia," says John Biffany,
commander of the State Line Area Narcotics Team. "It had originated in
China, went to Switzerland, Germany and then to Philadelphia."
Biffany says khat is hard to find in Rockford.
"We have had cases in the past, but it is not as prevalent as it is in
communities with large Somali or Yemeni or Ethiopian cultures," he says.
"It's popular in Chicago, where there's that community, it's popular in
Minneapolis, where I believe there are 60,000 Somalis.
Scott Nelson, a drug expert at Rosecrance Treatment Center, says khat
can be extremely addictive.
"It produces euphoria," he says. "And the effects are also somewhat
similar to let's say crack cocaine or methamphetamine, but not as
Nelson says when it's fresh, khat looks like basil.
"Sometimes it's brewed as a tea, sometimes it's chewed like tobacco. It
can be smoked, and it can also for instance be sprinkled on food,"
On Tuesday afternoon Hassan was in the Winnebago County jail, with bail
set at $500,000.