Do You Know the Difference Between Drug Possession and Distribution?

In 2013, about 24.6 million people used illicit drugs in the United States, according to estimates from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The majority were using marijuana, a plant now legalized for recreational use in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. What many people might not realize is that in some states, the government only allows licensed growers to cultivate marijuana. If someone is unlicensed, he or she may be charged with distribution. However, not all states allow recreationally, or even medicinal, marijuana use, and no states permit the sale of harsher substances, such as heroin or cocaine. While Ohio drug laws may not be as draconian as those of Oklahoma (the maximum penalty for some violations is life in prison), they can still be complex and can lead to jail time and significant fines.

Possession vs. Distribution

If you’re found with illicit substances, you could be accused of any of the following crimes, depending on the evidence against you:

  • Possession
  • Distribution
  • Trafficking
  • Manufacturing

The most common charge is possession, as more people are inclined to buy drugs rather than sell or distribute them. Possession is defined as knowingly and intentionally having the controlled substance without a valid prescription and in a quantity substantial enough for personal use or sale. In Ohio, marijuana possession will count as a 4th-degree misdemeanor if you’re only caught with 100–200 grams. You might face 30 days in jail and as much as $250 in fines. Any more and the charge becomes a felony, which can lead from 6 months to 8 years in prison and $2,500–$15,000 in fines, depending on the amount. Having more dangerous substances automatically results in a felony, which also ranges in punishment severity based on the type of drug and the quantity carried.

Possession with intent to distribute is a more serious charge than possession. It’s defined as a person selling or offering to sell a controlled substance. It’s also defined as preparing, shipping, transporting, delivering, or distributing an illegal drug when an individual knows it will be sold or resold by someone else. For 20 grams or less, the crime would be a misdemeanor, but it becomes a felony with 21–200 grams and more. Individuals who face a charge of distribution of more than 40,000 grams of marijuana get a mandatory minimum sentence of 8 years and could get a penalty of up to $20,000. Punishment for the sale of more dangerous drugs can be even harsher. Possession of heroin with intent to sell, for example, has a maximum prison term of 11 years.

Make sure you have a representative who has your best interests in mind. If you’re facing a drug charge, contact a Cleveland drug crime lawyer at Henderson, Mokhtari & Weatherly for a free case review. Protect your rights and your freedoms.

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