City Desk

The Consequences of Getting Khat

Once, at the Diredawa Cafe, you could get stuff like coffee, tea, and bread. After the police raided the place in May, you couldn't get anything.

A judge has issued a "stay-away order" barring Etana Shuremu, the proprietor of the Georgia Avenue NW shop, from even visiting it.

That's because cops believe Shuremu was dealing khat, a stimulating leaf that's chewed in East Africa and parts of the Middle East. It's a controlled substance in the U.S. Stay-away orders are often issued by judges at the beginning of court cases involving drug distribution. The orders forbid dealers from returning to houses streets or areas they might have once plagued.

But according to his lawyer, Erich Ferrari, Shuremu's stay-away order means he can't make a living.

Last week, Ferrari filed a motion asking the judge to let Shuremu enter his store and start serving customers again. "It's not only a source of income, it's a way for him to strengthen his ties to the community," says Ferrari. Ferrari says prosecutors oppose the idea. The U.S. Attorney's office declined comment. The judge is currently considering the motion.

Prosecutors believe they can connect Shuremu and his cafe to hundreds of pounds of khat.

That might seem like a big deal, but there are few indications that the khat game costs lives the way some other illicit substances do. Treating it that way feels like overkill.

Photo by cliff1066™ via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0 Generic

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