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 What Is PCP?

PCP is a chemical known as phencyclidine. In street lingo, it is sometimes referred to as “angel dust,” and it has other street names as well. Originally developed as a general anesthetic for humans, its use for that purpose was discontinued because it had undesirable side effects. PCP was then used widely by veterinarians as a tranquilizer for animals. In the 1960s, it became a popular substance for illicit use by people.

After its high potential for abuse and addiction became known, It was made illegal in 1978, and is a Schedule II controlled substance under federal law today. This puts it in the same category as cocaine and methamphetamine. The manufacture, distribution and even possession of PCP is illegal. Today PCP is most commonly found laced with other drugs, specifically marijuana, where it has been identified in 24% of street marijuana samples.

The psychological and physical effects of PCP can be unpredictable, especially if it is taken in larger doses. There are many possible psychological effects, but some of them include disassociation, euphoria, hallucinations, and agitation. Its physical effects can also be unpredictable and can include difficulty speaking, impaired motor skills, decreased sensitivity to pain, muscle rigidity, and irregular heart rate.

PCP is also an addictive drug; its use can lead to psychological dependence, craving, and compulsive behavior. In addition to feeling unpredictable, unpleasant psychological effects, users often become violent or suicidal.

PCP poses special risks to young people. Even limited use of the drug can negatively affect the hormones connected to normal growth and development. PCP use also can damage the learning process in teenagers.

Consuming large amounts of PCP can lead to seizures, coma, and even death. When taken in high doses, the effects of PCP may be similar to the symptoms of schizophrenia, including delusions and paranoia. Long-term use of the drug can lead to memory loss, difficulty with speech or thought, depression, and weight loss. These problems can last for up to a year after a person has discontinued using PCP.

In its basic form as a white crystalline powder, PCP can be easily dissolved in water or alcohol. It has a distinctive bitter chemical taste. PCP can be mixed easily with color dyes, so it appears on the illicit drug market in a variety forms, e.g. as tablets, capsules, and colored powders. It is normally ingested by snorting through the nose, smoking, injecting with hypodermic needles or ingesting its pill form.

If PCP is smoked, snorted, or injected, its effects are felt within 2 to 5 minutes. If it is ingested, a person feels the effects within 30 to 60 minutes. This is because it takes longer for the substance to enter a person’s bloodstream through digestion. However it is consumed, PCP’s effects last from 6 to 24 hours, but can linger for as long as 48 hours. In part it depends on how much body fat a person has, because PCP is stored in fat cells. For this reason, a person’s fatty tissues can retain PCP for longer.

Of course, other factors, such as how much a person uses and whether they use other substances, have an effect on the length of time a person might experience the effects of PCP.

What Are the Federal Penalties for Possession and Sale of PCP?

As with most illicit drugs, PCP mere use and possession are typically not prosecuted in the federal criminal system. More common in the federal criminal system are prosecutions for the manufacture and trafficking of large quantities of the drug. Because PCP is mostly manufactured within the U.S., there are harsh penalties for trafficking PCP.

The following are some examples of federal punishments for PCP:

  • Trafficking 100 to 999 grams of mixture:
    • First Trafficking Offense:
      • A term of imprisonment of a minimum five years to a maximum forty years;
      • If death or serious injury results, a term of imprisonment of a minimum twenty years to a maximum of life in prison;
      • A maximum fine of $2 million;
    • Second Trafficking Offense:
      • A term of imprisonment of a minimum 10 years to a maximum of life in prison;
      • If death or serious injury results, imprisonment for life:
      • A maximum fine of $4 million;
  • Trafficking of more than 1 kilogram of mixture:
    • First Trafficking Offense:
      • A term of imprisonment of a minimum of 10 years to a maximum of life;
      • If death or serious injury results, imprisonment for a minimum of 20 years to a maximum of life in prison;
      • A maximum fine of $4 million;
    • Second Trafficking Offense:
      • Imprisonment for a minimum term of 20 years to a maximum of life;
      • If death or serious injury results, a minimum of life;
      • A maximum fine of $8 million.

What Are Typical State Penalties for the Possession or Sale of PCP?

As with other illicit drugs, possession, whether for personal use or for sale, is illegal. Manufacture and distribution of large amounts are also illegal. All criminal offenses involving PCP come with penalties in all states. Most states follow the federal classification of PCP, and characterize it as a Schedule II controlled substance.

Of course, the punishment for criminal offenses involving PCP vary from state to state, but some common state penalties for PCP offenses are as follows:

  • Possession for Personal Use: Possession of a small quantity for personal use only can be punished by 3 to 5 years in jail and a fine of $1000-$25,000;
  • Possession With Intent to Sell: Possession with intent to sell can be punished by 3 to 15 years in jail and a fine of $2000 to $300,000.

In Texas, possession of a controlled substance is punishable by a range of terms of imprisonment depending on the amount of the substance found in a defendant’s possession. Each controlled substance is assigned to a penalty group as well as a punishment classification and a range of terms of imprisonment. For PCP, the punishment ranges are as follows:

  • Less than 1 Gram: Possession of less than a gram of PCP is punishable by 1180 days to 2 years in state jail;
  • 1 to 4 Grams: Possession of 1 to 4 grams of PCP is a 3rd degree felony punishable by confinement for 2 to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000;
  • 4 to 400 Grams: Possession of 4 to 400 grams is a 2nd degree felony punishable by 2 to 20 years in state prison and a maximum fine of $10,000;
  • 400 Grams or More: This is a 1st degree felony punishable by state prison time of 5 to 99 years or life and a fine of $10,000.

In California, a person can be charged with various criminal offenses involving the use, manufacture, possession, sale, or transport of PCP. Possession is categorized as possession for personal use, possession with intent to manufacture, or possession with intent to sell.
Punishment ranges from a low of imprisonment for 90 days to 364 days in the county jail for being under the influence of PCP to as many as five years in prison for possession or purchase for sale, for which the punishment is 2, 3, or 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

If the weight of the PCP is greater than 1 kilogram or 30 liters by liquid volume, a person can face an additional three to 15 years in prison. So a total sentence of 20 years in state prison is a possibility.

Should I Contact a Drug Lawyer if I Have Been Charged with the Possession or Sale of PCP?

There are a wide variety of complicated issues associated with the use or sale of PCP. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime involving PCP, you definitely want to obtain the advice of an experienced drug lawyer.

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