Sharing Prescription Drugs in Utah

Many Utah residents have faced legal or other unpleasant ramifications due to them lovingly, yet illegally sharing prescription drugs with their friends or family.

Care, don’t share

Photo by: Ajay Suresh

When a family member or friend is suffering from an ailment, loved ones want to do whatever possible to help relieve the symptoms being suffered. Perhaps a spouse is in pain after a lengthy dentist visit. Maybe an elderly neighbor has thrown out their back working in the yard. Or possibly an adult child is facing the pain that comes from an unexpected kidney stone. Sometimes an ice pack or a simple over the counter remedy does the trick when other times something stronger is needed. Instead of sending the unwell person to their primary care physician to legally obtain a necessary prescription, many Utah residents will head for their own prescription medications to treat a loved one-not realizing they are about to commit a crime.

Sharing is distribution

When a family member or friend shares a prescription with others, they are ultimately distributing that prescribed medication to another. Even if the person receiving the medication does not offer any sort of payment, it is still against the law. Utah Code 58-37-2 states: “Distribute means to deliver other than by administering or dispensing a controlled substance [through a pharmacy]”. That section also notes: “Deliver” or delivery” means the actual, constructive, or attempted transfer of a controlled substance or a listed chemical, whether or not any agency relationship exists.”

Criminal charges

Many prescription drugs including those meant to reduce pain or induce sleep are considered controlled substances by state and federal law. The Controlled Substances Act separates street and prescription drugs into different schedules depending on what they are used for, their potential for abuse, and their risk for harm. When someone shares a prescription drug that is considered a controlled substance, especially those that are a Schedule I or II drug, they may face serious criminal penalties. According to Utah Code 58-37-8:

• Anyone convicted of distributing a Schedule I controlled substance or a Schedule II controlled substance such as Adderall, Ritalin, Percocet, Vicodin, OxyContin, and Norco “ . . . is guilty of a second degree felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15 years, and upon a second or subsequent conviction is guilty of a first degree felony.”

• Anyone convicted of sharing a Schedule III or IV controlled substances such as Suboxone, Tylenol with Codeine, Vicodin, Soma, Valium, Ativan, Xanax, “. . . or marijuana is guilty of a third degree felony, or [second degree felony upon a subsequent conviction].”

The recipients of someone else’s prescription drugs may themselves face criminal charges for possession.

Health risks

Beyond the criminal charges possible, family or friends could end up responsible for causing more misery to someone they care about. When prescription drugs are shared, the person to whom they are shared with may have adverse reactions to the medication that could have been avoided had they been under the care of a doctor. Additionally, if a prescription is shared that is a controlled substance, the recipient may develop a dependence to the medication that can completely derail their lives and send them down a path of addiction and pain far worse than they were originally facing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn, “In 2016, more than 11.5 million Americans reported misusing prescription opioids in the past year.” That figure only includes those who reported their misuse, and may not include those who are getting their meds from a family member. For more information on criminal charges related to sharing prescription drugs, contact a criminal defense attorney. For help regarding substance abuse including prescription drugs, contact the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health to find a treatment center nearest you.

Pill Testing MDMA Club Drugs Could Reduce Overdose Deaths

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, club drugs such as MDMA “tend to be used by teenagers and young adults at bars, nightclubs, concerts, and parties.” There are companies who are attempting to promote pill testing at parties to help reduce the amount of overdose deaths associated with MDMA use.

MDMA

Photo by: Retinafunk

MDMA drugs such as ecstasy or “Molly’s” have been popular in the party scene since the 1980’s and news stories across the world blame the club drug for a slew of overdose deaths. NIDA reports that MDMA can “cause a number of acute adverse health effects [such as] Involuntary jaw clenching, lack of appetite, mild detachment from oneself (depersonalization), illogical or disorganized thoughts, restless legs, nausea, hot flashes or chills, headache, sweating, and muscle or joint stiffness.” NIDA notes however that “fatal overdoses on MDMA are rare”. So why are so many overdose deaths being blamed on MDMA drugs?

Laced or bad batches of street drugs

What many news stories fail to note about the numerous MDMA overdose deaths is that although the victim was found to have ingested a pill containing 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA, there is a high chance the overdose was caused by another ingredient in the pill. While MDMA does have a risk of death through severe reactions such as hypertension, seizures and even hyperthermia, the common cause of overdoses come from it being a higher dose than expected, an altered formula or from it being laced with other drugs such as fentanyl, mCPP, methamphetamine, or even high amounts of caffeine.

Deadly trust exercise

Photo by: ToNG!?

MDMA drugs are created and distributed illegally, with no quality control being done to ensure the safety of the user. Many teens and young adults buy illegal MDMA drugs from people, giving their full trust in the illegal vendors to not sell them something deadly. While it should be common knowledge to be wary of a drug dealer seeing how their profession is based on deceiving law enforcement, it is possible the one pushing the MDMA at parties isn’t sure what the pills contain either. This can result in loss of life for the user and aggravated criminal charges for the distributor. Beyond law enforcement’s regular attempts to control the amount of club drugs dispersed at parties, what can be done to reduce the overdose deaths of those who take them anyway?

Pill testing

Pill testing, otherwise known as adulterant testing has been becoming popular in Europe as well as Australia and is slowly gaining ground in the U.S. Pill testing can be done using a kit purchased online at sights such as Walgreens and even Amazon. Pill testing can also be done through a professional laboratory. The at home kits are done by scraping a portion of the pill off into the testing liquid and looking for color changes that signify another substance. While many ingredients can be detected through one of the several pill testing kits on the market, they don’t catch everything which can still put users at risk. Laboratory testing is the most thorough method of decoding a pill’s synthetic “makeup”. This can be time consuming and expensive as well as putting the one wanting the test at risk of arrest for possession. Often the option to take club drugs is last not known until the event anyway.

Pill testing on site

Photo by: Simon Law

For those who find themselves at a party where club drugs are circulating and they haven’t had the opportunity to test the illegal drug before consumption, there are harm reduction groups that want to offer pill testing on-site: at parties, clubs, raves, etc. Knowing the drugs are inevitably going to show up at the scene anyway, these groups want to offer on-site testing of pills to help reduce the amount of overdose deaths by letting users know exactly what they are taking. Unfortunately, many club owners or party hosts do not want to have this service offered as it could make them or their customers a target from police backlash. There is fine line between enabling drug users and ensuring they get high safely and it is time for everyone to work together to save lives while continuing to educate on the harmful effects of illegal street and club drugs.

Drug Trafficking Charges for Utah Man Smuggling $300,000 Worth of Marijuana

A Cedar City Utah man was arrested for drug trafficking charges when Oklahoma police caught him smuggling $300,000 worth of marijuana through their state.

It all started with a traffic violation

Photo by: Highway Patrol Images

Photo by: Highway Patrol Images

68 year old Peter Dulfon of Cedar City, Utah was stopped along Interstate 40 in Oklahoma for numerous traffic violations when authorities realized there was more going on. Police took Dulfon into the squad car for questioning and when officers began to cite Dulfon for the traffic violations, he attempted to flee. Oklahoma police realized there was more to the story and ordered a K9 unit to the scene.

A trunk full of pot

When the K-9 unit arrived, the drug dog alerted police to the trunk which officers found full of duffle bags. Inside the bags were vacuum sealed pouches of marijuana, which authorities have estimated weighing between 80 and 120 pounds and had a $300,000 street value. Dulfon, who was originally stopped for traffic violations that would’ve ended with a ticket, was booked into jail on drug trafficking charges.

Drug trafficking in Oklahoma

Oklahoma has recently reduced the penalties for drug possession however drug trafficking and distribution charges are still harsh. Under Oklahoma state law, drug trafficking of more than 25 pounds of marijuana will result in a hefty fine ranging between $25,000 and $100,000 as well as four years to life in prison.

Drug Trafficking

Photo courtesy of: Canadian County (Oklahoma) Sheriff’s Office Facebook page

Had Dulfon been caught in Utah his fine would be far less, ranging at $5,000 to $10,000. Prison time in Utah would have been higher however; up to five years if he had less than 100 pounds of marijuana in his trunk and as much as 15 years in prison if the final weigh in of his stash exceeded 100 pounds.

Drug trafficking vs distribution

The charges Dulfon faced in Oklahoma were at a state level, and reflected the state’s penalties for distribution. Dulfon was charged with drug trafficking though. Although some may drug trafficking and distribution are one in the same, drug trafficking charges can go to federal court which means those convicted would be spending time in federal prison, not state. So what makes distribution charges become trafficking instead? There are two reasons in which a person would face drug trafficking charges as well as distribution. The first but not always the most common is when drug are sold over state lines. The most prevalent cause of federal drug trafficking charges however is not regarding the movement of the drugs, but the vast quantity the suspect allegedly intends to sell.

Federal drug trafficking penalties

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration’s Federal Trafficking Penalties, trafficking of less than 50 kilograms (110lbs) of marijuana may result in up to five years in federal prison as well as another fine of up to $250,000. If the amount is over 110 pounds, or 50 to 99 kilograms, that can result in up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of $1 million dollars. Of course, these prison sentences and fine amounts can be increased for subsequent charges. Authorities mentioned Dulfon had a prior criminal record but failed to elaborate on that information. They only stated that “he’ll be put away for a long time.”

Consult an attorney

Photo by: Phillippe Put

Photo by: Phillippe Put

When it comes to facing distribution or drug trafficking charges in court, it is never recommended to go it alone. Regardless of whether or not defendants are first time offenders or if they have a lengthy criminal record, anyone who has been arrested for distribution or trafficking is strongly urged to consult with a criminal defense attorney to discuss the possible state and/or federal charges they may be facing.