MEMPHIS, TN – An immigrant from Ethiopia is behind bars after police caught him with a large amount of Khat at Memphis Smart Mart.
Smart Mart at South Highland and Southern was closed for business around 11 a.m. Monday morning. The store was back open to customers by that afternoon.
Police said the temporary shutdown came after the only employee on duty was arrested for the possession of a unique drug to Memphis called Khat.
“We don’t see it a lot. But we understand that people are addicted, are using it. They can chew it, chew the leaves, smoke the leaves, they can also brew it in tea,” said Lieutenant Mike Shearin.
Police discovered a plastic bag containing 93.4 grams of Khat, an amphetamine-like stimulant which causes excitement, loss of appetite and euphoria. Khat is a flowering plant indigenous to East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
Memphis Police Department’s Organized Crime Unit arrived at the store to check on the business’ compliance with alcohol regulations.
After searching the lone employee’s car, 26-year-old Khalid Awal, they found another bag containing 94.0 grams. His car was located in the Smart Mart parking lot.
“We believe yes, he was selling it,” said Shearin.
Though they don’t see it much in the Memphis area, police said there’s a demand for the drug.
“We see a lot of people from Ethiopia, Somalia, even Yemen that uses the drug,” said Shearin.
Awal, who police said is from Ethiopia, has been charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to manufacture, deliver and sell.
Police said they don’t believe the gas station and store owner were involved. However, this was the second Khat bust at the Smart Mart in the last 18 months.
– Tealy Devereau, MyFox Memphis
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