Drug Trafficking - Criminal Penalties For Trafficking
five grams prison cocaine
The Controlled Substances Act (PL 91-513, 1970, last amended in 2000) provides penalties for the unlawful manufacture, distribution, and dispensing (or trafficking) of controlled substances, based on the schedule (rank) of the drug or substance. Generally, the more dangerous the drug and the larger the quantity involved, the stiffer the penalty. Trafficking of heroin, cocaine, LSD, and PCP, all Schedule I or II drugs (see Table 2.1 in Chapter 2), includes mandatory jail time and fines. A person caught selling at least five hundred grams but less than five kilograms of cocaine powder (seventeen ounces to just under eleven pounds) will receive a minimum of five years in prison and may be fined up to $2 million for a first offense. (See Table 6.1.) The same penalty is imposed for the sale of five to forty-nine grams of cocaine base ("crack"). Five grams are equal to the weight of six plain M&Ms candies, and forty-nine grams are a little more than a bag of M&Ms candies (47.9 grams). The high penalty for selling crack is an expression of the unusual severity with which legislators are trying to curb the use of this drug.
Penalties double with the second offense to ten years in prison and up to $4 million in fines. When higher quantities are involved (five or more kilograms of cocaine powder, fifty grams or more of crack, etc.), penalties for the first offense are ten years, and fines up to $4 million may be levied. For the second offense, twenty years and up to $8 million in fines are given, and the third offense results in mandatory life imprisonment. These examples are for an individual. Higher penalties apply if an organized group is involved or if a death or injury is associated with the arrest event.
These penalties apply also to the sale of fentanyl (a powerful painkiller medicine) or like-acting drugs, heroin, LSD, methamphetamine, and PCP. The smallest amount, which can earn someone a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $2 million, involves trafficking in LSD, where a one-gram amount carries a five-year minimum sentence in prison.
Punishments for marijuana, hashish, and hashish oil are shown in Table 6.2. Special penalties exist for marijuana trafficking, since it may be traded in large quantities or grown in substantial amounts. The lower the amounts sold or the fewer the plants grown, the lower the sentence. A person cultivating one to fortynine plants or selling less than fifty kilograms of marijuana mixture, ten kilograms or less of hashish, or one kilogram or less of hashish oil may get a
FIGURE 6.1 Drug smuggling in the 1990s SOURCE: "Drug Smuggling in the 1990s," in Drug Intelligence Brief: The Evolution of the Drug Threat: The 1980s through 2002, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, October 2002, http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/pubs/intel/02046/02046.html (accessed February 17, 2005)
maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Sentences for second offenses involving large amounts of marijuana may earn the trafficker up to life imprisonment.
The states have the discretionary power to make their own drug laws. Possession of marijuana may be a misdemeanor in one state but a felony in another. Prison sentences can also vary for the same charges in different states—distribution of five hundred grams of cocaine as a Class C felony may specify ten to fifty years in one state and twenty-four to forty years in another.
Changes in 1990 to the Controlled Substances Act (PL 101-647) led to more than 450 new drug laws in forty-four states and the District of Columbia. Most states have followed the model of the Controlled Substances Act and have enacted laws that facilitate seizure of drug-trafficking profits, specify greater penalties for trafficking, and promote "user accountability" by punishing drug users.
FIGURE 6.2 Current drug threat, 2002 SOURCE: "Current Drug Threat," in Drug Intelligence Brief: The Evolution of the Drug Threat: The 1980s through 2002, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, October 2002, http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/pubs/intel/02046/02046.html (accessed February 17, 2005)
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