Laws Regarding Controlled Substances

Both the federal Controlled Substances Act and the Virginia Drug Control Act penalize the unlawful manufacturing, distribution, use, and possession of controlled substances. The penalties vary based on the type of drug involved, amount possessed, and whether or not there was an intent to distribute. Federal law sets penalties for first offenses ranging from up to one year to life imprisonment and/or $1,000 to $4 million in fines. Penalties may include forfeiture of property, including vehicles used to possess, transport, or conceal a controlled substance or denial of Federal benefits such as student loans and professional licenses (e.g., nursing license, teaching license, admission to the legal bar).

Federal law provides that any person who distributes, possesses with intent to distribute, or manufactures a controlled substance, on or within 1,000 feet of an educational facility is subject to a doubling of the applicable maximum punishments and fines. A similar state law carries sanctions of up to five years imprisonment and up to $100,000 in fines for similar violations.

Additionally, if an individual distributes a controlled substance to a person with the intent to commit a crime of violence, the Drug-Induced Rape Prevention and Punishment Act of 1996 provides criminal penalties of up to twenty years imprisonment. An example of such behavior is giving rohypnol (“date rape drug”) to a person for the purpose of committing rape.

Penalties vary widely, depending both on whether distribution or intent to distribute is found and depending on the scheduled “class” of the drug involved. The five schedule classes of drugs are:

Class Description Common Examples
Schedule I High potential for abuse. No currently accepted legitimate medical use for treatment. Heroin, Ecstasy (MDMA), LSD, GHB. Marijuana and synthetic marijuana are also considered Schedule 1, but penalties are separate and not as severe.
Schedule II High potential for abuse. Some highly restricted medical uses. Methamphetamine (crystal meth) and other stimulants. Morphine, PCP, Cocaine, methadone, Ritalin
Schedule III Potential for abuse less than Schedule I or II. Does have legitimate medical uses. Anabolic steroids, codeine and hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lorcet, Dolacet and others) with aspirin or Tylenol, Special K (Ketamine), some barbiturates and other depressants
Schedule IV Low potential for abuse compared to Schedules I-III. Does have legitimate medical uses. Many prescription drugs such as Darvon, Talwin, Equanil, Valium (diazepam), Rohypnol, and Xanax, as well as other tranquilizers
Schedule V Low potential for abuse compared to other drug schedules. Codeine-based cough medicines

Conviction under state law may be misdemeanor or felony crimes that carry a range of sanctions.

Specific penalties under Virginia law for marijuana convictions include:

Possession (under ½ ounce for personal use)

  • Up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine up to $500
  • For a second or subsequent violation – up to one year in jail and/or a fine up to $2,500

Possession with intent to sell or distribute (based on weight), or distribution

  • Up to one year in jail and/or a fine up to $2,500 for amounts up to ½ ounce
  • From 1 to 10 years in jail and/or a fine up to $2,500 for amounts more than ½ ounce to up to 5 pounds
  • From 5 to 30 years in jail and/or a fine up to $2,500 for more than 5 pounds
  • From 10 to 50 years in jail and a fine up to $100,000 if someone 18 years old or older is selling to someone under 18 and three years their junior

Manufacturing (growing, producing, processing)

  • From 5 to 40 years in jail and/or a fine up to $500,000