In many cases of “social” recreational drug use, the person who bought the drugs will sometimes share them with friends or visitors. There have been some questions as to whether or not this can be treated as drug distribution, which is a far more severe crime than mere drug possession.

Many people assume that, because no money changes hands when drugs are shared, the law will not treat it as drug distribution. This is not always the case.

The federal statute which prohibits drug distribution does not say anything about social versus commercial distribution. The majority of federal courts which have considered the issue have found that there is no distinction.  People who share drugs with friends can be found guilty of drug distribution.

Under the meaning of the law, the word “distribute” simply means “to deliver.” There is no requirement that the drugs be sold, only that they change hands. Accordingly, if somebody hosts a party, and shares drugs with the guests, that person could be charged with drug distribution.

Similarly, if a person is arrested with drugs on his or her person, and a court finds that he planned to give some of the drugs to his or her friends, without being paid, he may be guilty of drug possession with intent to distribute, which is a more severe crime.