Readers may have heard of the plant commonly known as khat or qat (or Catha edulis, for the botanically inclined). The plant is indigenous to Africa and is popular in parts of that continent, as well as parts of the Middle East, and is commonly and legally used in some of those places. When the plant is ingested, it acts as a stimulant. As with more familiar stimulants, users tend to experience mild feelings of alertness and euphoria in smaller doses; larger doses can induce delusional thinking, mania, paranoia, and heart problems (among other potential harmful effects). Users typically ingest the plant by chewing its leaves. Exotic though it may be, the plant occasionally finds its way into North Carolina. I have heard anecdotal reports of its presence in Durham, and this recent story from WRAL News noted that it was found in Johnston County as a part of an unrelated investigation. This post examines state law on possession and distribution of khat. Read on for the details.
I recently taught on the basics of drug law in North Carolina and was reminded just what a tricky area it can be. Chapter 90 of the N.C. General Statutes is a dense, complex, and ever-evolving set of laws proscribing controlled substances. There are many substances, offenses, enhancements, and sentencing rules to know, as well as evidence issues and offense-specific case law. One thorny area involves the law of drug mixtures. While practitioners handling felony drug cases may be aware of the rules here, they may come as a surprise to others. Some applications of the law in this area can produce unexpected results for the unwary defendant. Today’s post examines the rules of drug mixtures and their implications in North Carolina.
Judges, inmates, and others have asked me about the First Step Act, wondering whether it entitles certain defendants to a reduced sentence or an early release from prison. The confusing thing is that there are two First Step Acts—one federal, and one state. The federal First Step Act was signed into law in late 2018. North Carolina’s First Step Act did not become law.
Recently, I was teaching a class about the habitual felon laws when a participant asked a question that I had never considered. We know that a defendant convicted of drug trafficking may be convicted as a habitual felon, and when that happens, the defendant’s term of imprisonment is determined under Structured Sentencing based on the elevated offense class set forth in the habitual felon statutes, not based on the mandatory term of imprisonment set forth in the trafficking statute. But what about the mandatory minimum fine listed in the trafficking statute? Must that be imposed, or is the defendant “habitualized out” of all the sentencing-related provisions of the trafficking laws? Apparently, this issue comes up regularly in practice.
Legislation that will come into effect on December 1, 2018, made some changes related to drug trafficking.
I’ve recently been asked several variants of this question: If a suspect sells drugs to an undercover officer on multiple occasions over a few days or weeks, can the drug quantities involved in each sale be aggregated to reach the trafficking threshold? That led me to spend some time looking at the more general issue of when multiple caches of drugs can be combined. This post lays out the law.
Drug trafficking offenses can lead to really long sentences, and not just because of the special minimums and maximums that apply to those crimes. Consider this example: My husband and I agree to grow marijuana. We grow and harvest 50 pounds of it. We then arrange to sell it to a street-level distributor. Finally, we … Read more