Drugs: French seizures of khat and cannabis soar

Drugs: French seizures of khat and cannabis soar
French customs officers had a busy year in 2013 seizing 86 tonnes of cannabis and 49 tonnes of khat. Photo: Pierre Clatot/AFP
Cannabis seizures in France soared last year according to an end-of-year report by French customs officials. Marijuana was not the only illegal substance that was confiscated in huge amounts in 2013. An incredible 44 tomes of the khat was impounded at Channel ports.

French customs officials have had a busy 2013 it seems if the amount of drugs they seized is anything to go by.

The country’s finance minister Pierre Moscovici revealed this week that authorities had confiscated an incredible 86 tonnes of cannabis in 2013. To put that in perspective, that’s more than three times as much as the 24 tonnes seized in 2012.

French customs officials told The Local the huge rise in the amount cannabis confiscated was mainly down to two huge seizures in the Mediterranean last year, including one in September when the French Navy impounded a boat containing 20 tonnes of the drug worth around €50 million (see below).

French Navy in record €50 million cannabis seizure

And it was not only marijuana that French customs officials were impounding by the truck load. In 2013 officers pulled in 7.2 tonnes of cocaine compared with 4.6 tonnes the previous year.

Moscovici was naturally proud of the efforts of his staff, congratulating them on their “exceptional results”.

Other items confiscated by authorities included:

  • 430 tonnes of tobacco compared to around 371 tonnes in 2012
  • 823 guns were confiscated in 2013, more than double the 401 impounded in 2012
  • 7.6 million counterfeit items were seized in 2013, again well up on the 4.6 million in 2012

But perhaps the most unbelievable haul of illegal substances last year was the 49 tonnes of khat, a hallucinogenic substance derived from a plant that originates in the Horn of Africa and southern Arabia. In 2012 a mere 4.5 tonnes of the plant, which is prohibited to varying degrees in 17 countries in the EU, was confiscated.

Leaves of the khat shrub are chewed and held in the cheek, like chewing tobacco, which releases stimulant chemicals that can affect the brain for up to 24 hours. It can make the user feel euphoric and more alert before the effects wear off and leave them "in a depressed mood."

A spokesperson for French customs told The Local that the ten-fold rise in the amount of khat seized was due in large part to the Netherlands moving to ban the substance in January 2013.

Since then a trafficking network was set up to transport the drugs from the UK to the Netherlands via France. Most of the 49 tonnes of khat were seized at the Channel ports of Calais and Dunkirk.

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