The Los Angeles Times had an interesting story this weekend about clashes between law enforcement and some immigrants about khat, a substance that is considered by many to be a harmless tradition in East Africa but that is illegal in the United States.

San Diego, which has a large Somali population, has seen an eight-fold increase in khat seizures, the newspaper reports.

“It is a very touchy subject. Some people see it like a drug; some people see it like coffee,” said Abdulaziz Kamus, president of the African Resource Center in Washington, D.C. “You have to understand our background and understand the significance of it in our community.”

Local Assemblyman Joel Anderson recently wrote a law that went into effect last week that makes possession of khat a misdemeanor under state law. It’s already a felony under federal law to possess khat with intent to sell.

RANI GUPTA

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