Drug manufacturing is the crime of being involved in any step in the drug production process. Similar to drug trafficking, drug manufacturing requires that the defendant had knowing possession of a drug, or the chemicals necessary to manufacture a drug, and that he or she had an intent to manufacture. Thus, drug manufacturing requires more than simple drug possession. With the rise of synthetic drugs and the rise in domestic production of methamphetamines, charges of drug manufacturing have increased significantly in recent years.
What is Manufacturing?
The term manufacturing encompasses a broad range of activities related to the production of drugs. While producing illegal substances in an in-house lab is clearly drug manufacturing, the crime also targets those who sell necessary precursor chemicals, specialized drug production equipment, or provide other operational support. In many states, merely offering to assist in drug manufacturing is enough to be prosecuted for the crime. Because many precursor chemicals are legal substances, prosecution for drug manufacturing requires that a seller knew, or had reason to know, that the purchaser of the chemicals intended to use them to make illegal drugs. Thus, for instance, a home supply store that sells certain chemicals to the general public would not be charged with drug manufacturing unless a prosecutor could show that they knew, or should have known, that their customers were purchasing the chemicals for drug production.
Additionally, under federal law, the cultivation of marijuana is also treated as drug manufacturing. The government regards it as equivalent to the manufacture of any Schedule I illegal drug. This means that individuals who grow marijuana plants for use may technically be charged for drug production, a much more serious crime than simple drug possession. Some states that allow recreational use of marijuana, or medical marijuana possession, have carved out exceptions to this federal law, allowing users to legally cultivate a certain number of marijuana plants for their personal use.
Intent to Manufacture
Unlike drug possession, drug manufacturing requires not only that a defendant possessed illicit materials or drugs, but also that he or she clearly intended to manufacture illegal substances. This is an important distinction, and many defendants caught with common drug chemicals argue a lack of intent as a defense to the crime of drug manufacturing. Intent to manufacture is typically proven through possession of other circumstantial evidence, such as drug manufacturing equipment, a home drug lab, or a stockpile of precursor chemicals. Thus, for instance, while possession of common cold medicines (often used in methamphetamine production) may not be enough to charge an individual with drug production, possession of these medicines in tandem with other methamphetamine chemicals, can result in a charge of drug manufacturing. Similarly, a man who is found in possession of marijuana may be subject only to a charge of drug possession. However, if he is also found to have multiple plants, or grow lights, on his property, he may be charged with drug manufacturing instead.
Drug Manufacturing Penalties
Punishment for the crime of drug manufacturing can be quite significant. Drug manufacturing is typically prosecuted as a felony, and often results in at least one year of prison, although sentences can be as high as ten years. Defendants may also face substantial fines, up to $25,000 or more. Under federal laws, punishment for the cultivation of marijuana plants can range from five years in prison for 50 plants to more than 25 years for 1,000 or more plants.
One common defense to drug manufacturing is that the defendant was a permit or license holder who is authorized to be in possession of certain precursor chemicals. Thus, for instance, many factories and businesses that use industrial chemicals common in drug production may be protected from a drug manufacturing charge because they possess permits allowing them to purchase and use these chemicals.