Written by Canterbury Law Group

Drug Paraphernalia Charges

Drug Paraphernalia Charges

While most people are aware that drugs like marijuana, cocaine, and heroin are illegal under federal and state law, you may not be aware that people can be prosecuted for owning or selling related items or objects, even if they aren’t in possession of the drugs themselves. This article will teach you everything you need to know about drug-related paraphernalia laws.

Laws Concerning Drug Paraphernalia

It is illegal to do any of the following under federal law:

  • To offer to sell or sell drug paraphernalia
  • Drug paraphernalia can be mailed or transported through interstate commerce.
  • Drug paraphernalia can be imported or exported.
  • Possession of paraphernalia alone is not a federal offense. However, it is illegal in some states to simply own or possess these items. Police may search for drug residue, and if it’s obvious that a pipe, bong, hookah, or other item was used to smoke illegal substances, a person could be charged with drug paraphernalia.


Numerous specific examples of prohibited paraphernalia are listed in federal law, including:

  • Glass, wood, stone, plastic, and ceramic pipes
  • Bongs, water pipes, and chillums (a long hollow pipe usually made of clay)
  • Clips of roach (objects used to hold burning materials like rolled cigarettes or joints that are too small to be held by hand),
  • Snorting cocaine with miniature spoons that hold less than a tenth of a cubic centimeter
  • Freebase cocaine kits, also known as paraphernalia, are items that are used to smoke cocaine

Some states have longer lists of prohibited items than others. Washington State, for example, adds:

  • Weighing scales and balances for controlled substances
  • Instruments for determining the strength or purity of controlled substances
  • To “cut” or dilute the strength of narcotics, materials or chemicals are used.
  • Injecting controlled substances with syringes or needles.

Law enforcement officials must use a variety of factors to distinguish between a legal physical object (such as a scale or a spoon) and illegal drug paraphernalia, according to both federal and state laws.

Certain objects, such as bongs and roach clips, may have been removed from the list in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Even if a state no longer prohibits the sale of these items, it’s important to remember that federal law still considers them to be illegal drug paraphernalia.

Penalties for Possessing or Distributing a Controlled Substance

The penalties for drug paraphernalia offenses are generally less severe than those for offenses involving illicit drugs. The maximum penalty for selling paraphernalia under federal law is three years in prison plus a fine. As previously stated, federal law does not make possession illegal in and of itself.

Penalties vary depending on the state. In Ohio, for example, drug paraphernalia possession is a fourth-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine, but dealing in paraphernalia is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine (up to 90 days in jail plus a larger fine). While most states treat paraphernalia distribution as a misdemeanor, if it involves the sale of items to minors, some states make it a felony.

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*This information is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your personal legal needs.

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