There are some strict drug laws in the United States and these aren’t always clear cut, nor are they infallible. But what are the differences between possession, supply and intent as far as the law of the land is concerned? How do they stack up and what do the different schedules mean? Let’s address those questions in this guide to Possession versus Intent versus Supply.
Define Possession in Law
It’s rare for anyone to serve serious jail time for possession in the United States. The Office of National Drug Control Policy are an official group that doesn’t always have liberal views but does push for alternative outcomes to incarceration for offenders abusing substances. In other words, they are increasingly seeing addiction as a disease that needs to be treated and not that needs to be punished. Which is great and very progressive.
But it’s not perfect. In many cases it will still be lodged as a criminal offensive which can still lead to time spent in jail. And in states where the Three Strikes rule applies, time in prison. The maximum penalties for possession are fines of thousands of dollars and several years in jail, but in most cases rehab referrals are recommended and small fines are levied.
Intent vs Supply
This is basically the same thing. Someone who has “intent to supply” is someone labelled as a drug dealer and will be treated as such by the law. In the US, many protesters will look to establish a plea deal in exchange for more information. They are not interested in taking down small time dealers and are more interested in bringing down the big kingpins, so if they can use one dealer to get to another higher in the supply chain, they will happily exchange a reduced sentence for information.
If this does not occur, then the maximum jail time can go into the decades, but it all depends on the drug, the amount and the method.
Jail Time for Different Drug Schedules
The schedule of the drug that a person is charged with possessing or supplying will play a huge role in what jail time they will receive.
- Schedule I Drug Jail Time: If you are convicted of selling a drug in this class then you could face as much as fifteen years in jail and a fine of a quarter of a million dollars.
- Schedule II Jail Time: As mentioned above, possession of a drug in this class is unlikely to trigger serious jail time in most US states. Supply, however, can lead to as much as 10 to 15 years in jail.
- Schedule III Drug Jail Time: You could be sentenced to as much as five years in jail for supplying drugs in this class, as well as a fine of as much as $15,000.
- Schedule IV Drug Jail Time: The maximum penalty for selling a drug in this class is three years, along with a fine of $10,000.
The Different Drug Schedules
To understand how much jail time a person will receive, you need to understand the schedule of the drug they were charged with selling or possessing, as outlined above. There are four main schedules in the United States and these are split as follows:
The main schedule and the one that is reserved for drugs deemed to be the most dangerous, including heroin, but also, rather surprisingly, including marijuana. Of course, in many states the laws on marijuana are a little more relaxed, but this isn’t the case where medicinal marijuana is illegal and where the drug is outlawed.
LSD, better known as acid, and MDMA, which also goes by the name ecstasy, are also Schedule I drugs. Generally, drugs in this class are defined as having no discernible medicinal value. Of course, that doesn’t ring true with marijuana, which is widely accepted as having medicinal value, including by the US itself. It also doesn’t ring true with heroin, which is used in palliative care in many countries (the UK included) and even LSD, which is being studied for its benefits in helping with depression.
But it’s best not to pay too much attention to that definition, the lawmakers clearly didn’t.
Drugs that have a high potential for abuse, leading to severe dependance, and drugs that are highly dangerous all fall into this category. They include many opioids like Oxycontin, Methadone and Demerol. They also include cocaine. In other countries, the UK included, cocaine is listed in the highest category, but the US is a little different on this front.
Codeine is one of the few opiates in this schedule but only if the tablet containing the codeine contains less than 90mg per dose, which is more than the average sized tablet (30mg and 60mg). Ketamine and steroids also fall into this category, which is typically more forgivable as far as the law of the land is concerned.
The terminology for this category is basically any drug with a mild to moderate chance of abuse and dependance.
Drugs in this class are defined as having a low chance of abuse and dependance. It includes muscle relaxants and anti-anxiety drugs like Soma and Xanax. It also includes GABA drugs like Lyrica and sleeping tablets like Ambien.
The Problems with US Drug Scheduling
From a scientific standpoint, and the standpoint of someone who has experience with addiction and abuse, the US system is very inconsistent and doesn’t add up. Marijuana clearly should not be where it is, although in all fairness it probably won’t be for much longer. Also, drugs like Xanax don’t have a “low potential for abuse” as anyone who has ever been prescribed them will tell you. Tramadol is also in the same schedule, even though it is now a generally accepted fact that Tramadol is just as strong, dangerous and addictive as codeine based painkillers.
The problem with the US system stems from two things. The first is the pharmaceutical industry. It is the only developed nation on earth where medications are advertised freely on TV and essentially pushed on patients. The drug industry generates a lot of money in tax and contributes massively to the country’s GDP, and moving some of the drugs up the schedule would be admitting that they are dangerous and addictive, and that would be a bad move.
Maybe that’s the cynic in me, but the other issues are clearer: they don’t change their schedules as readily as other countries do and there are different drug laws in different states.
Possession vs Supply and Intent
If you are arrested for possession of drugs, you need a lawyer. If you are arrested for supply or intent to supply, you need a lawyer. If you have been caught manufacturing…well, you get the idea. The US may have a strange system when it comes to drugs and they may be one of the stricter developed nations on earth with regards to their penalties. But this is also a very litigious country where a good lawyer can help you get off with anything.
If you were heavily addicted and using large amounts, only to be discovered and blamed for supplying, then a good lawyer will get you off. Simple as that. And rightly so. We’re firm believers that someone shouldn’t punished for something they do to themselves and their body, and that’s even more true if they are being fingered for a crime they don’t commit, simply because law enforcement didn’t understand the extent of their addiction.