In 2002, a law was added to the drug abuse laws in Ohio to prohibit the “illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs.”
Q: What, exactly, does this law do?
A: The law prohibits a person from knowingly assembling or possessing one or more chemicals with the intent to manufacture a drug that is listed as a “controlled substance” (a substance that is illegal to possess, buy, or sell except under certain circumstances, as when prescribed by a doctor, sold by a pharmacist and used by a patient). The law also adds the illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for drug manufacture to the definition of a “drug abuse offense.”
Q: Is there a particular drug that is being targeted through this law?
A: Yes. This law increases the penalty for the “illegal manufacture of drugs” if the drug involved is methamphetamine (also known as “speed” or “crystal meth”) or contains methamphetamine.
Further, this law expands the definition of “drug paraphernalia” offenses to include any object, instrument or device used to manufacture, compound, convert, produce, process, or prepare methamphetamine or one of its components.
Q: What are the potential penalties for violating this law?
A: Illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs is a third-degree felony, which is potentially punishable by a prison term of up to five years; a fine of up to $10,000; suspension or revocation of driving and/or occupational licenses; or, in some cases (at the sole discretion of the judge), community control sanctions (also known as probation).
If someone is being prosecuted for violating this law, the prosecutor does not have to prove that the accused person assembled or possessed all of the chemicals necessary to manufacture a controlled substance. If the accused person possessed or assembled even one chemical to be used in manufacturing a controlled substance, that person may be found guilty of violating this law.
Further, the law says that, if a person’s illegal methamphetamine manufacturing laboratory causes local government entities (such as fire, rescue and emergency medical services) to spend emergency money in order to protect the health or safety of the public by investigating, minimizing, removing or abating contamination, then the person operating the laboratory may be held responsible for those extra expenses.
Also, if the person responsible for the manufacturing laboratory has property that is seized under another law (the Contraband Seizure and Forfeiture Law, the Criminal Gang Activity Forfeiture Law, the Felony Drug Abuse Offense Forfeiture Law, or the Corrupt Activity Law), then that property may be sold to pay for the emergency action taken to handle the contamination.
Finally, if, during an arrest, a law enforcement agency confiscates any of the chemicals used to produce methamphetamine, it may get a court order to destroy the chemicals.
Law You Can Use is a weekly consumer legal information column provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. This article was prepared by William L. Summers of Summers & Vargas Co., LPA in Cleveland.