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Alaska processing worker indicted for possession of stimulant khat

Jim PaulinDutch Harbor Fisherman
A Unisea seafood processing worker from Ethiopia was arrested on Unalaska Island recently for possession of khat, a stimulant that is illegal in the U.S. but legal in Ethiopia and has amphetamine-like effects. Loren Holmes photo

A Unisea processing worker was indicted by an Anchorage grand jury on felony charges of possession of khat, a drug that people chew to feel good and is not illegal in the African nation of Somalia.

Unable to raise $3,500 in bail, Yusuf Mohamed Aadan, remained in custody in Anchorage , worrying about losing his job. A request to lower the bail to $1,000 was denied. He is represented by the Alaska Public Defender Agency.

Aadan, 28, told Unalaska police that he knew the green leafy substance is illegal in the United States, though it is
legal to chew in his homeland. He is charged with fourth degree controlled substance misconduct.

Police found a sandwich bag about an eighth full of the “flat plant matter cut in small uniform squares and had a sweet smell unlike the pungent smell of marijuana,” according to a court document, also saying that Aadan bought it in Seattle.

The drug was found hidden near Aadan’s bed in Unisea’s Attu bunkhouse by company security personnel on June 30. Aadan denied he was in the business of selling the substance out of his room. The state crime lab found the total weight of the plant matter to be 18.9 grams and contained the chemical cathinone, the mind-altering ingredient in khat leaves.

Aadan’s next court appearance is set for Sept. 5, with the requirement of Somalian language translation services. He was indicted Aug. 14. 

Khat, pronounced “cot,” is also known as jaad or qaad in Somalia, chat in Ethiopia, and miraa in Kenya.

The World Health Organization lists khat as a drug that creates dependence in people, meaning it produces a continuing desire to keep using it. Khat produces amphetamine-like effects. These effects include euphoria, a feeling of increased alertness and energy, hyperactivity, anorexia, and lack of fatigue. The users also reel relaxed and talkative. Other effects may include elevated blood pressure, dilated pupils and hyperthermia.

This article originally appeared in The Bristol Bay Times-Dutch Harbor Fisherman and is republished here with permission.