In many cases in the US, state and federal government will work hand in hand with each other, particularly when it comes to drug law enforcement. This is because they two entities will frequently overlap as well. The two must often work together in order to decide whether the drug charge will be state or federal. Usually, state charges will first be considered because the penalties are often less severe. However, in some cases, the federal government may decide that the case is a federal drug crime.
Every state has its own drug laws. However, the federal government has set rules in order to stop the abuse, the trafficking and the distribution of all illegal drugs. The strategies they have put in place have been around for several decades, although there is quite a lot of debate on how effective these rules actually are.
Despite the ad campaigns, increased incarceration rates and a crackdown on smuggling, the number of illicit drug users in America has risen over the years and now sits at 19.9 million Americans. And a large portion of their supply makes its way into the country through Mexico.
Understanding the Different Laws
It is a know fact that our society spends over $110 billion each year dealing with injuries, accidental deaths, health care, criminal behavior and other issues that are directly related to drugs. It is also known that at least half of the drug charges at state and local level are on marijuana charges. Federal charges are far more serious, however, with much harsher penalties and consequences.
Another difference between federal and state drug laws is the severity of consequences after a conviction. Federal drug charges generally carry harsher punishments and longer sentences.
Drugs and Criminal Behavior
Some 20 years ago, a report was published by the U.S. Department of Justice that gave information on the relationship between illegal drugs and criminal behavior. Through this report, it was demonstrated that people who use drugs were more likely to take part in criminal activity than those who did not. It is in part for this reason that the War on Drugs was started.
The document showed that people who are arrested on drug crimes are often users themselves. Furthermore, in order to support a drug habit, most individuals have to turn to a life of crime. It also found that most violent crimes were a direct result of the trafficking and distribution of illegal drugs. Finally, the report noted that most people who were arrested were actually under the influence at the time of their arrest.
Types of Drug Charges
There are many different types of drug charges at both state and federal levels. However, some charges are seen more commonly than others, with the most common one being drug possession (often with intent to supply).
Those convicted on drug possession charges face a wide gamut of penalties at sentencing, varying from state to state. Penalties for simple possession range from a fine of less than $100 and/or a few days in jail to thousands of dollars and several years in state prison for the same offense.
After possession, the two most common drug charges, particularly at the federal level, are cultivation or manufacturing, and trafficking and distribution. Generally, these crimes come with mandatory sentencing at federal level. Most state level courts have adopted similar mandatory sentencing procedures, although these tend to be less severe. It is important to understand that the federal minimum sentences were put in place to discourage large scale drug operations. However, the reality is that they are affecting people who have simply made the wrong choices in their lives.