Specialists in Serious Fraud and Complex Criminal Defence
Khat stimulant banned as illegal class C drug in the UK
The use of drugs for medicinal and recreational purposes is entrenched in human history. Opium in its natural form was used in rituals tracing back to the New Stone Age and more recently in the American Civil War.
The Law has an important role in regulating drug use as seen in the recent decision to criminalise the relatively new drug ‘Meow Meow’ (Mephedrone) and the traditional drug Khat.
This article with focus on the recent criminalisation of Khat which came into force today on 24 June 2014.
HISTORY OF KHAT
Khat is a plant, the leaf and stem of which are used for recreational and medicinal purposes. The drug elevates mood in some users and can be chewed to produce the desired effect (as an euphorant). It is used in Est African and Arabian countries and is particularly popular amongst the Somali community. The chemical make up of Khat contains stimulants similar to those found in amphetamines. The World Health Organisation has warned of the effects of the drug in creating dependency in its users and of the long term health implications.
The law changed on 24 June 2014. Khat is now a class C controlled drug. This has had an impact on the Somalian community who have a high incidence of Khat use as a traditional stimulant dating back centuries and is very much part of their culture and way of traditional life. An outright prohibition as opposed to regulation of the drug will mean that a number of users may find themselves in court and in police stations as they struggle with their dependency.
As Khat is now a class C controlled drug, possession of Khat carries a maximum sentence of 2 years imprisonment. However, if a Defendant has no previous convictions (or limited previous convictions) and the amount is relatively small, the likely sentence is a fine or a conditional discharge. If a Defendant has multiple convictions or the amounts concerned are large, the sentence could increase to a community order. Prison would be unlikely unless the offence was continually repeated or the amounts were very large.
It is anticipated that if a person is in possession of a small amount of Khat and it is a first time offence, police may be keen to deal with this by way of a fixed penalty notice. This can be given without the suspect having to attend the police station or Court. If you are arrested and brought to the police station, police can potentially also offer a caution.
It will also become an offence to possess the drug with the intention of supplying it to others. Supply covers a wide range of circumstances from large scale or commercial supply to social supply. Social supply could be sharing the substance with friends. Possession with intent to supply Class C drugs carries a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment, with sentences normally ranging from a fine to 8 years imprisonment depending upon the seriousness of the circumstances.
Importation of Khat will become illegal. The offence of importing Class C drugs (Fraudulent evasion of a prohibition by bringing into or taking out of the UK a controlled drug) carries a maximum of 14 years in prison, with sentences normally ranging from a community order to 8 years in prison depending on the circumstances.