The World of Illegal Drug Manufacture

drug-manufactureThe manufacturing of drugs includes such activities as growing marijuana, making crystal meth or crack, making ecstasy pills, cooking cocaine to produce crack cocaine, and making or refining heroin or other narcotics. Mere possession of the chemicals necessary for illegal drug manufacture may lead to an arrest and conviction of the felony of drug manufacturing.

Drug cultivation and manufacturing laws make it a crime to (1) grow, produce, and possess certain plants and other naturally occurring elements used in the production of unlawful controlled substances, such as cannabis seeds and marijuana plants; or (2) to produce illegal controlled substances like methamphetamine, Ecstasy, LSD, and cocaine, which require use of certain chemicals and various laboratory equipment to produce. For instance, if police conducted a legal search of your home and found cannabis seeds, high-powered lamps, and remnants of marijuana plants, you could be charged with violation of drug cultivation and manufacturing laws. Laws for drug cultivation vary according to the type of drug produced and the amount of the drug produced.

Although state laws vary, a person is generally guilty of drug manufacture when they produce an illegal substance by means of a chemical synthesis or a natural extraction process. The manufacturing of drugs can also include the packaging or repacking of the substance or the labeling and re-labeling of its container.

Marijuana cultivation as well as the possession of the chemicals necessary to manufacture illegal drugs is a felony. However, several states have passed statutes that allow patients to grow, possess, and use marijuana for medical purposes if they have the documented approval of a physician. Some even allow registered care givers to grow the plants and distribute them, but not use the drug themselves. Amounts are generally restricted to ounces of useable marijuana, a specific number of plants, or a supply for a certain number of days. In U.S. v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative (2001), the Supreme Court ruled that there is no medical necessity exception to the federal ban on marijuana, yet a ruling in Raich v. Ashcroft (9th Cir. 2003), granted an injunction in California against federal prosecution for possession and use of marijuana that has not been sold or transported across state lines and is used for medicinal purposes. This case has been appealed to the Supreme Court, and time will tell where these rulings will end.

In addition, some states allow limited exceptions to the manufacture and distribution of peyote for use in bona fide religious ceremonies of the Native American Church. As with the marijuana rulings, cases for peyote manufacturing and cultivation are the subject of many court battles.

While marijuana production is probably the most common and easiest drug to manufacture, manufacture of methamphetamines has become a major concern in the “war on drugs.” In 1983, the criminal justice system passed laws prohibiting possession of equipment that could serve as a precursor for methamphetamine production, and in 1986, passed the Federal Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act in an effort to slow the use of designer drugs. Despite these precautions, methamphetamine use expanded throughout the rural U.S. with clandestine laboratories resorting to the use of unorthodox and unclean equipment for methamphetamine production such as mason jars and plastic kitchen containers. As a result, since 1989, five federal laws and numerous state laws have been imposed in an attempt to curb the production of methamphetamines.

Unfortunately, methamphetamine can be quite easily produced in home laboratories using pseudoephedrine or ephedrine, active ingredients in many cold and sinus over-the-counter drugs. Most states have placed addition restrictions on the sale of these precursor chemicals, making them more difficult for the average methamphetamine manufacturer to obtain. Much to the dismay of many consumers, pseudoephedrine, a common over-the-counter decongestant, now requires a purchaser to provide identification and various other information before being permitted to purchase a simple package of cold medicine.

Defenses to Drug Manufacturing/Cultivation

Defenses for criminal manufacturing/cultivation charges are the same as for most other drug offenses. The police may legitimately search persons and property, and seize both persons and property, either with or without a warrant if the circumstances justify these actions. Thus, the key to a drug manufacture defense rests on proof that the police acted without probable cause or exceeded constitutional limitations on their actions. In these cases where searches and/or seizures are deemed invalid the resulting evidence may be considered to be tainted and consequently, inadmissible, leaving the court with very little recourse for a drug conviction.

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