You Are Caught With Drugs

If you’re using drugs, selling drugs, or spending a lot of time around people who do, you may have to face legal consequences.

A drug-related conviction can have a major impact on your future. With a drug-related offense on your record, the following may be true:

  • You may not be able to get the job you want
  • You may be unable to join the military
  • You may fail to keep your college loans
  • You may face one of the biggest consequences of all: Being sentenced to time in prison.

The United States has clear, explicit drug abuse laws at the federal, state, and local levels. Sometimes, just being around drugs can justify an arrest and conviction, even if you’re not using drugs and the drugs aren’t yours. And depending on the laws in your area, even drug paraphernalia may be cause for arrest.

It’s up to you to learn about the legal consequences and consider the facts when you make decisions about drugs.

What are the drug laws in my state or jurisdiction?

Although there are differences among the states, every state has specific laws and penalties in relation to drugs. These laws deal with manufacture, possession, distribution, use, related behavior (like driving), and advertising and labeling.

To learn about the drug laws in your particular state, go to your state government’s website and search for “drug laws.”

Some local jurisdictions pass laws of their own about drugs. To find those, go to your local jurisdiction’s website and search for “drug laws.”

What are the federal drug laws?

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) prohibits unauthorized manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing of controlled substances. It also prohibits their possession for the purpose of distributing or dispensing.

Controlled substances are both illicit drugs or diverted licit drugs (those with a limited legal, medical usage) as well as some chemicals used to make drugs. Federal law generally focuses on larger quantities of controlled substances than state and local laws. Federal law also focuses on interstate or international drug trafficking.

The law also addresses how violating the CSA impacts eligibility for different types of federal benefits (grants, loans, contracts, and forms of assistance such as food stamps). The CSA also has special prohibitions and penalties against distributing drugs to minors or using minors to distribute drugs, as well as against distributing near a school, interstate highway, or truck stop.

Federal penalties are usually much higher than those at the state or local level. For example, a crime that might bring a year in prison at the state level might bring 10 years at the federal level, because that crime involves much larger quantities of a controlled substance or listed chemical and impacts a larger area and more people.

What are the federal penalties for trafficking marijuana?

Federal penalties for trafficking marijuana, hashish, or hashish oil depend on the quantity of the drug and how many prior offenses the trafficker has. The following chart shows the federal penalties for trafficking marijuana, hashish, and hashish oil.

Federal Trafficking Penalties - Marijuana*

Quantity

First Offense

Second Offense

Third Offense

1,000 kgs or more mixture; or 1,000 or more plants

Not less than 10 years, not more than life.

 

If death or serious injury, not less than 20 years, no more than life.

 

Fine not more than $4 million individual, $10 million other than individual.

Not less than 20 years, not more than life.

 

If death or serious injury, then life.

 

Fine not more than $8 million individual, $20 million other than individual.

Life imprisonment without release.

100-999 kgs mixture, or 100-999 plants

Not less than 5 years, not more than 40 years.

 

If death or serious injury, not less than 20 years, not more than life.

 

Fine not more than $2 million individual, $5 million other than individual.

Not less than 10 years, not more than life.

 

If death or serious injury, then life.

 

Fine not more than $4 million if individual, $10 million other than individual.

 

Marijuana: 50-99 kgs mixture; or 50-99 plants

 

Hashish: More than 10 kgs

 

Hashish Oil: More than 1 kg

Not more than 20 years.

 

If death or serious injury, not less than 20 years, not more than life.

 

Fine $1 million individual, $5 million other than individual.

Not more than 30 years.

 

If death or serious injury, then life.

 

Fine $2 million individual, $10 million other than individual.

 

Marijuana: Less than 50 kgs mixture; 1-49 plants

 

Hashish: 10 kgs or less

 

Hashish Oil: 1 kg or less

Not more than 5 years.

 

Fine not more than $250,000, $1 million other than individual.

Not more than 10 years.

 

Fine $500,000 individual, $2 million other than individual.

 


*Includes Hashish and Hashish Oil