Written by Canterbury Law Group

What Is Drug Trafficking?

What is a Drug Trafficking

Drug trafficking is the importation, transportation or selling of illegal drugs, also known as drug distribution. It is a federal crime, a felony, and not comparable to drug possession.

Law Overview

Federal law penalizes:

  • The illegal import, transport and selling of what is known as unlawful controlled substances like cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamines as well as other drugs that are not legal.
  • Punishment can depend on the quantity and types of drugs, the location of distribution and if minors were the target.
  • Sentences can range from three to five years to life in prison.
  • Drug distribution/trafficking is a felony and you may be charged with this if law enforcement think you were selling. If you had large amounts of cash or drugs on you, you may face distribution charges.
  • This also applies to prescription drug distribution.

Controlled Substances

A controlled substance is a substance governed by state and/or federal law. Classified at different levels, known as schedules:

  • Schedule I: A highly addictive drug with no medicinal benefits and not safe to use.
  • Schedule II: A highly addictive drug with some medical uses and may lead to dependency on the drugs.
  • Schedule III: A drug with only a low potential for misuse, has accepted medicinal uses and a medium risk of dependency.
  • Schedule IV & V: Less potential for drug abuse drugs with well known and accepted medical usages and only small chances for dependency.


State and federal laws need to be taken into account with trafficking situations. Federal law applies if the person crosses state lines but within a state, it will just be state laws, There are many federal drug laws and every state has their own laws. Generally, the laws are aimed at major drug operations but often those lower on the rung end up facing prosecution. Violent criminals have been known to serve less time than a small time drug dealer. Here are some examples of federal penalties:

  • Ten years to a life sentence for 1000 kilos of marijuana, 5 kilos of cocaine or 1 kilo of heroin.
  • Five to forty years for 500 grams of cocaine or 100 grams of heroin.
  • Not in excess of five years for 50 kilos of marijuana.
  • There are stiffer terms that may be imposed if a firearm is involved, or if a person is considered a leader or if bodily injury or death results and if there are prior convictions.
  • Firearm charges cannot run consecutively with drug offenses.
  • States differ in their penalties but for example in Arizona, it is assumed you are distributing if you have a single gram of heroin, 2 lbs of marijuana or 9 grams of cocaine.
  • Although marijuana is legal in some states, state laws still say trafficking over certain amount of marijuana is still illegal even where it is legal to use it.

Obtaining Legal Help

Drug trafficking charges can mean seized assets, a reputation in ruins and hail time. It is a very good idea to speak with an experienced attorney who can help you obtain the best possible outcome.

Source: https://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/drug-trafficking-distribution.html

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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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