Drug Offenses: Crime and Punishment

No matter how you look at it, dealing drugs is a lose-lose proposition. The possession and distribution of controlled substances and drugs are considered a crime, and therefore punishable by law. And this doesn’t even begin to describe the many complicated moral implications of drug peddling.

In order to better understand the legal framework and the way laws and punishments are applied to infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies it is worth exploring the laws related to drug offenses. In this article, we’ll zero in on California and how the different regulatory specifications and penalties for the sale and or illegal distribution of controlled dangerous substances are applied in the Golden State.

So, What Are Controlled Substances

The Controlled Substances Act serves as the overarching legal framework of federal drug policy under which the manufacturing, importation, possession, use, and distribution of drugs are regulated. Aside from regulating and penalizing the sale and distribution of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, the state of California also controls the compounds involved in their manufacture. In California the unlawful possession and possession with intent to sell constitutes a violation of the California Health and Safety Code Section 11350. But it’s not only the unlawful possession of “common” drugs such as cocaine, LSD, marijuana, and heroin that are penalized and punishable, but also the unlawful or possession without prescription of known prescription painkillers such as hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (Oxycontin) and codeine. However, it is worth mentioning that the California Health and Safety Code 11350 doesn’t cover marijuana or other stimulants. In fact, the unlawful possession of marijuana is covered under the California Health and Safety Code Section 11357. As for methamphetamines and other controlled stimulants, these fall under the Health and Safety Code 11377.

What Happens If You Get Caught with a Controlled Substance

Under California HS 11350 the unlawful possession of a controlled substance constitutes a misdemeanor. If convicted, a misdemeanor can be punishable by local county jail time, and for not more than one year and with a fine of up to $1,000. Under the Drug Diversion Penal Code 1000 PC, if the person caught in possession of illicit drugs is a first time nonviolent drug offender, they may be eligible for a drug diversion (treatment) in lieu of doing jail time. If treatment and education are duly completed, the convicted person may have their criminal record dismissed. It is worth noting though that PC 1000 only applies if the drugs in possession were for personal use. On the contrary, if the intention of possession was for sale and commercialization, the Drug Diversion PC 1000 is no longer applicable.

However, if the person caught in possession of illicit drugs is a recurrent offender, or if he or she has a prior conviction either for a sex crime or some other felony such as gross vehicular manslaughter or murder, then the felony conviction falls under the California Health and Safety Code 11350, and therefore punishable for anywhere from 16 months to three years in a county jail.

How Does California Classify Controlled Dangerous Substances

For additional and more nuanced information it is worth taking a look at the U.S. Department of Justice Schedules of Controlled Substances to better understand the 5 different groups or ‘schedules’. Below are some of the drugs listed under each schedule:

  • Schedule I drugs (including opiates, opium derivatives, depressants, mescaline, peyote, synthetic cannabis, cocaine base (including their isomers, esters, ethers, salts, and salts of isomers, esters, and ethers)
  • Schedule II drugs (including raw opium and morphine)
  • Schedule III drugs (such as pentobarbital and anabolic steroids)
  • Schedule IV drugs (such as diazepam and zolpidem)
  • Schedule V drugs (such as low doses of codeine)

Battling Addiction to Controlled Substances? Get Help from BLVD

If you or a loved one have an addiction to alcohol, contact BLVD Treatment Centers. At BLVD Treatment Centers we custom tailor our recovery programs within the safe and nurturing confines of our rehab treatment centers. Located throughout California, in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and in Portland, OR, our mission is to assess the severity of your addiction to help you achieve true recovery within 30 days. Call us now at 1-866.582.9844.


U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Resource Center: Statistics & Facts. Retrieved May 12, 2016.

U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Control Substances Act Legislation. Retrieved May 12, 2016

Official California Legislative Information. California Health and Safety Code Section 11350-11356.5. Retrieved May 12, 2016

Official California Legislative Information. Drug Diversion Penal Code 1000 PC. Retrieved May 12, 2016

U.S. Department of Justice. Office of Diversion Control. Schedules of Controlled Substances. Retrieved May 12, 2016


Drug Offenses: Crime and Punishment