What Amount Of Drugs Is Considered Trafficking?

A person will face drug trafficking charges if arrested with 100 or more grams of heroin, 500 or more grams of powdered cocaine, 5 or more grams of crack cocaine, or 1 or more grams of LSD.

By Brad Nakase, Attorney

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What quantity of drugs qualifies as drug trafficking?

Drug trafficking involves the production, distribution and sale of controlled substances. It is an aspect of activity related to drugs. In the United States drug trafficking is regulated by law the Controlled Substances Act. This law categorizes drugs into schedules based on their potential, for abuse and value. The threshold for determining what constitutes drug trafficking varies depending on the drug.

The trafficked drugs include:

  1. Cannabis: Despite its legalization in some states cannabis remains illegal at the level. Is heavily involved in trafficking.
  2. Cocaine: A stimulant, cocaine is widely. Often associated with organized crime.
  3. Heroin: As an opioid, heroin trafficking is a concern due to its addiction rates and risk of overdose.
  4. Methamphetamine: Known for its addictive nature, methamphetamine trafficking significantly contributes to the ongoing drug crisis.

The specific quantities that qualify as drug trafficking, under federal law can be complex. For example, possessing 28 grams of cocaine can result in a five-year prison sentence. Similarly, possession of 100 grams of heroin may lead to consequences.

These thresholds indicate how seriously federal law considers drug trafficking, reflecting its impact on health and safety. It is essential to understand these laws and the nature of trafficked substances to grasp the extent and severity of the issue surrounding drug trafficking.

Please note that a person can be charged with drug smuggling under 21 USC 952 which is different than drug trafficking. Please contact a San Diego drug defense attorney to learn more.

What is the legal definition of drug trafficking?

Drug trafficking refers to the transportation or transactions involving controlled substances. According to law (Title 21 Section 841) it is illegal for anyone to knowingly or intentionally “manufacture, distribute or dispense” a controlled substance or possess it with the intent to do so.

States also have their laws against drug trafficking. For instance, California’s Health and Safety Code (Section 11379) states that individuals who transport, import into the state, sell, furnish, administer, give away, or attempt any of these actions with a controlled substance may face imprisonment as punishment.

How many years do you get for drug trafficking in the US?

Now you might wonder about the sentence for drug trafficking, in the United States.

For the substances/schedules and amounts:

  • Cocaine (Schedule II): between 500 and 4999 grams of a mixture
  • Cocaine Base (Schedule II): between 28 and 279 grams of a mixture
  • Fentanyl (Schedule I): between 40 and 399 grams of a mixture
  • Fentanyl Analogue (Schedule I): between 10 and 99 grams of a mixture
  • Heroin (Schedule I): between 100 and 999 grams of a mixture
  • LSD (Schedule I): between 1 and 9 grams of a mixture
  • Methamphetamine (Schedule II): either form ranging from 5 to 49 grams or mixture ranging from 50 to499 grams
  • PCP (Schedule II): either pure form ranging from10 to99grams or mixture ranging from100to999grams

Penalties associated with these offenses

  • 1st  offense: The punishment includes imprisonment for not less than five years but not more than forty years.  In case there is death or serious injury involved the imprisonment term can range from not than twenty years to life.  Additionally if an individual is found guilty they may face fines up to $5 million. For non individuals the fine can be as high as $25 million.
  • 2nd offense: The punishment includes imprisonment for not than ten years but no more, than life.  If there is death or serious injury involved in this offense it can lead to life imprisonment. Furthermore individuals convicted in this case may face fines up to $8 million. Non individuals may be subjected to fines reaching $50 million.

For substances/schedules and larger quantities the following apply:

  • Cocaine (Schedule II): 5 kilograms or more of a mixture
  • Cocaine Base (Schedule II): 280 grams or more of a mixture
  • Fentanyl (Schedule IV): 400 grams or more of a mixture
  • Fentanyl Analogue (Schedule I): 100 grams or more of a mixture
  • Heroin (Schedule I): 1 kilogram or more of a mixture
  • LSD (Schedule I): 10 grams or more of a mixture
  • Methamphetamine (Schedule II): 50 grams or pure or 500 grams or more of a mixture
  • PCP (Schedule II): 100 grams or pure or 1 kilogram or more of a mixture

The penalties are as follows:

  • First Offense: A minimum sentence of no less, than ten years and no maximum limit up to life imprisonment. If death or serious injury occurs the sentence is not than twenty years. Can extend up to life imprisonment. Additionally an individual may be fined up to $10 million: if not an individual the fine can reach $50 million.
  • Second Offense: A minimum sentence starting from twenty years up to life imprisonment. If death occurs or serious injury results from the offense the punishment is life imprisonment. Moreover for individuals fines may go, up to $20 million: for non individuals it could reach $75 million.
  • Two or More Prior Offenses: Life imprisonment. If an individual is found guilty they may face a fine of, up to $20 million while non individuals could face a fine of up to $75 million.


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