A total of 85 pounds of Khat, an indigenous plant native to northern African and the Arabian Peninsula was recently found in the belongings of a Minnesota man at O’Hare Airport over the weekend. The 20-year-old had reportedly been on a British Airways flight to Chicago. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found 24.4 kilograms of the drug in one suitcase, and 15.1 kilograms in another suitcase.
As a result of the incident, the man has been charged with violating Illinois’ Controlled Substances Act. When questioned about the drugs, which had a total street value of $12,211, the man said he obtained them for 200 British pounds in a suburb of London. His family and friends, he said, had used the drug at a wedding earlier this year and he was unaware it was illegal.
In the United States, Khat has been a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substance Act for some time. In addition, the drug was banned by the DEA in 1993. In the United Kingdom, Khat was not made a controlled substance until this July.
When an individual is charged with possession of a controlled substance, it is important to determine what defenses may be available. Different states have different laws from one another, and it is important to work with an attorney who understands the relevant law. In the state where the charges occurred Still, there are some things that are the same from state to state. Some defenses are affirmative in nature, while others concern procedural or other issues raised by the facts of the case.
Lack of knowledge as to whether or not a drug is illegal is not usually considered a legitimate defense to a charge of possession of a controlled substance, but it is important to consult with an experienced attorney to determine what defenses may be available.
Source: Chicago Sun-Times, “Man with 85 pounds of drugs at O’Hare said he didn’t know it was illegal,” September 2, 2013.