7th Circuit addresses 'khat' convictions for first time

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled on many types of drug cases, but was presented with a new drug to consider for the first time: “khat,” a popular drug among the Somali community.

Jama Mire and Hassan Rafle became involved in a conspiracy to distribute khat in the Indianapolis area. Khat is the common name for the plant having leaves that are chewed or soaked in tea. Khat is not illegal, but the plant contains two controlled substances,
cathinone and cathine, that are used to combat fatigue.

Mire’s business, the Somali House of Coffee, served as a place where people could get the drugs and enjoy in comfort. Government agents received a tip from a concerned Somali man about this khat-distribution conspiracy and launched an investigation into it. Mire and Rafle were each convicted on one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cathinone. Mire was also convicted of knowingly using or maintaining a place for the purpose of distributing and using cathinone; and possession with intent to distribute a mixture or substance containing cathinone.

The defendants challenged the government testimony by Drug Enforcement Administration chemists regarding the testing of khat plants for cathinone, claiming the testing procedures underlying the experts’ testimony were unreliable and incomplete.

The district court conducted a Daubert hearing on the motion and denied the motion to exclude.

In United States of America v. Jama Mire and Hassan Rafle, 12-2792, 12-2793, the men contended that their due process rights were violated because the Controlled Substance Act and its corresponding regulations do not provide fair warning that the possession of khat may be illegal. This argument is one of first impression in the 7th Circuit, Judge William Bauer noted, but all of the other Circuits that have considered it have rejected it.

The statutes at issue here require “actual knowledge” that khat contains a controlled substance and contain a scienter requirement.

“Like our sister circuits who have considered the regulations involving khat, we are mindful that ‘it would be helpful to people, who actually resort to statutes and regulations to determine whether their conduct is lawful, for Congress, through the statutory or regulatory scheme, to include the word “khat” in the CSA,’” Bauer wrote. “This is especially true considering that not all khat leaves contain cathinone or cathine and that other plants containing controlled substances are specifically listed in the schedules. But this does not invalidate the statutes at issue on Due Process grounds; the Defendants’ fair warning challenge fails.”

The men also claimed the District Court erred under Daubert in admitting the government’s expert testimony regarding the chemical composition of the khat leaves tested.

“To find in the Defendants’ favor, we would have to write an additional element into the offenses: that khat leaves must have a ‘certain amount’ of cathinone versus ‘any quantity.’ That is not our job, and we decline to do so,” the court ruled. “The Defendants’ argument that a qualitative assessment is insufficient because it does not say ‘how much’ cathinone or cathine is in a given leaf or plant easily fails; the district court correctly rejected it.”

The 7th Circuit also rejected Mire’s double jeopardy challenge to his convictions and his claim that the government didn’t provide sufficient evidence to support his convictions.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.