Criminal Defense Lawyer Mark A. Correro has recently come to the forefront in the Houston
area and indeed nationwide on the subject of
khat. This new drug has attracted widespread attention in the media, both as
a public health concern and also due to evidence that links it to international
terrorism. Mark recently sat down to answer several questions about khat,
sharing his insight on the laws applying to the drug and discussing the
news that prosecutors in the Houston area are pursuing cases involving it:
What are the basics that everyone should know about khat?
It's a bush that grows wild in many parts of the world and has been
used for thousands of years, both brewed in tea and chewed.
Why do people use khat?
It's both a social custom, like "Tea Time" in the UK, and
used as part of religious ceremonies, similar to our use of wine on special
holy holidays in the United States.
Is khat dangerous?
There is no evidence that khat is dangerous. In the U.S., both alcohol
and cigarettes are legal despite the wealth of hard scientific evidence
that demonstrates their harmful effects. In fact, tobacco use is the leading
preventable cause of death in the United States. According to the Centers
for Disease Control, there are over 440,000 deaths each year from tobacco
use. But I'm not aware of a single death in the world from the use of khat.
What types of penalties does a person face for a conviction on khat-related charges?
The range of punishment depends on the amount possessed and can include
life in prison.
Is khat primarily a federal law enforcement target, or are state and local
agencies in Texas also taking an interest?
Currently, local law enforcement agencies, like the Texas Department of
Public Service, are taking a hard line approach by using sting operations
and confidential informants to build cases, which are then handed over
to local district attorney's offices to prosecute. Additionally, they
are using khat cases to seize hundreds of thousands of dollars from immigrants,
many of whom immigrated to the US to escape persecution in their home
countries and have become United States citizens themselves.
Why should someone facing khat charges choose Stornello & Correro?
Khat cases are entirely different from typical marijuana cases, for example.
These are cases that involve a unique understanding of the plant's
chemistry and the different schedules of controlled substances. We retain
khat chemists that have been involved in hundreds of cases, involving
hundreds of tons of khat. And we've taken the time to understand the
weaknesses of these cases and how to attack them at trial or on appeal.
It's an extremely unique area of law and must not be treated as a
standard drug case.
Have you won any cases involving khat?
These cases are relatively new in Houston and started really showing up
this summer (2013). But in that short time, we've secured dismissals
in several cases plus the return of property and cash.
Speak with a Houston Drug Crime Attorney
If you have any further questions concerning a criminal case involving
khat, do not hesitate to contact us at Stornello & Correro Law Firm,
PLLC for a
free case evaluation.