Fentanyl: Legal consequences

Last modified: Sunday, 31. May 2009 - 3:35 pm

Legal consequences of Fentanyl

According to the DEA, fentanyl and its analogs are Schedule I and II narcotics. This means that anyone who possesses fentanyl without a legal prescription can face criminal charges. Whether the drug is Schedule I or II depends on how much of the drug is possessed or sold. It is important to remember that when the weight of the drug is determined, anything that is part of the substance is included. This means that an entire fentanyl lollipop is weighed, not just the amount of fentanyl in the lollipop. This is especially of concern to street users who buy the designer drug already dissolved in water, because water is much heavier than the drug.
Anyone who sells or distributes fentanyl or one of its analogs, regardless of whether it is pharmaceutically or clandestinely created, can face criminal charges. This includes giving someone else some of a legally prescribed dosage. Any doctor who falsely prescribes fentanyl to someone can face criminal charges.
Anyone possessing more than 40 g of fentanyl can be prosecuted for a Schedule I offense. Possession of more than 10 g of a fentanyl analog is also a Schedule I offense. The harsher penalties for fentanyl analogs are because all analogs are illegally produced in clandestine laboratories. Possessing less than 40 g of fentanyl or less than 10 g of an analog is a Schedule II offense.

Legal history

The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 was an attempt to tightly control all potentially harmful substances. It was designed to limit the use of drugs such as fentanyl and codeine to clinical use only. Drug users found a way around this law. By designing the drug in clandestine labs, they would alter the chemical makeup just enough so that prosecutors could not charge users. However, the law was altered in 1984 to include analogs of illegal drugs. The wording was cleaned up even more in 1986, and since then, any analog of an illegal drug is also considered illegal. In fact, analogs are viewed in an inceasingly negative light; as of 2002, analogs are considered more dangerous and thus demand stiffer penalties for violators of the law.

Federal guidelines, regulations, and penalties

Fentanyl is used throughout the world. In most countries, few can legally possess the drug. However, 11 countries — including the United States — use fentanyl not only for pain associated with the effects of cancer but also for those with general chronic pain.
In the United States, fentanyl and its analogs can be considered either a Schedule I or II drug depending on the amount involved. The DEA is pushing to remove all designer drugs from the street, so makers are being targeted. Doctors who write false prescriptions are increasingly under scrutiny as well.
First-time offense violators who possess 40-399 g of fentanyl mixture can receive not less than five years or more than 40 years in prison; if death or serious injury is involved, then not less than 20 years or more than life in prison. This is in addition to a fine of not more than $2 million for an individual. The same penalties apply to 10-99 g of fentanyl analog. For a second offense, the violator can receive not less than 10 years or more than life unless serious injury or death is involved. In this case, the term becomes not less than life in prison. The fine doubles to not more than $4 million for the second offense.
First-time offenders who possess 400 g or more of fentanyl or 100 g or more of an analog can receive not less than 10 years or more than life in prison unless there is a death or serious injury. This is in addition to a maximum $4 million fine. A second offense brings a mandatory 20-year prison sentence with a maximum of life. If death or serious injury occurs in a second offense, a life sentence in prison is the minimum. A fine of not more than $8 million can accompany the prison sentence.

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