Unlawful Manufacturing of a Controlled Substance

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 Unlawful Manufacturing of a Controlled Substance

According to state and federal laws, manufacturing a controlled substance is unlawful. Manufacturing is growing or cultivating a controlled substance. To cultivate means to:

  • Process
  • Grow
  • Naturally produce
  • Produce
  • Propagate
  • Prepare
  • Convert

People who use cannabis seeds and marijuana plants to produce marijuana, an illegal controlled substance in many states, can be charged with manufacturing marijuana.

What Is a Controlled Substance?

Controlled substances are drugs. Drugs are classified as “controlled” because their distribution and use are governed by law. When drugs are manufactured and distributed without government approval, they are illegal.

There are different levels or schedules of drugs. The federal government typically defines which drugs are classified in which schedule. Most states have adopted the federal schedules. Addictive drugs are classified at the highest level. Less addictive drugs are classified at the lowest level.

What Is the Controlled Substances Act?

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) represents the comprehensive efforts of the federal government in regulating the manufacture, possession, dispensing, distribution, and use of certain drugs and other dangerous substances (together, controlled substances). A person who violates the CSA can face significant civil and criminal penalties.

The CSA has divided a wide range of products into five categories called schedules. Controlled substances are classified according to their characteristics, including their medicinal value, abuse potential, public safety, and dependency potential. Categorizing these drugs and substances makes it easier to regulate or deregulate them when necessary.

What Drugs or Substances are Covered In the CSA Schedules?

There are quite a few different types of drugs and substances that are included under the five schedules of the CSA, and they mostly fall into a few more recognizable categories. These include:

  • Narcotics: such as heroin, methadone, morphine, opium, and fentanyl;
  • Stimulants: such as cocaine, amphetamines, and methamphetamines;
  • Depressants: such as GHB, rohypnol, and benzodiazepines;
  • Hallucinogens: such as LSD, peyote, and ecstasy
  • Other: marijuana, steroids, and inhalants (essentially household products—spray paint, felt markers, anything that gives off chemical vapors and which may be inhaled for psychoactive effects).

The schedules are ranked from most dangerous (i.e., least medicinal value and highest potential for abuse) to least dangerous (most medicinal value and least potential for abuse).


When a person participates in any part of the process of creating an illegal drug, they are engaged in drug manufacturing. In addition to growing marijuana plants, manufacturing activities can include mixing chemicals to create LSD, cooking methamphetamine, or creating methamphetamine. Even assisting in the drug manufacturing process qualifies as drug manufacturing.

Distributing Materials

A person may not provide chemicals, chemical mixtures, components, or materials if they reasonably believe that the substances will be used to manufacture illegal drugs. The production of methamphetamine, or meth, requires specific chemical components. Those who supply these chemicals to someone who uses them to manufacture methamphetamine can be charged with drug manufacturing if they knew or should have known the person would do so.


Plants that produce controlled substances are also subject to manufacturing laws. People who cultivate marijuana plants, psychedelic mushrooms, or other plants used in drug manufacturing are usually called cultivators.

Possession Is Enough

It is possible to be convicted of a drug manufacturing crime even if you never manufactured any drugs. You can be found guilty of manufacturing if you merely possess the chemical components, manufacturing equipment, or other devices used in manufacturing illicit drugs.


State and federal penalties can be severe for violations of drug manufacturing laws, with lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines. Generally, drug manufacturing is a felony crime. Still, it can be charged as a misdemeanor crime in some situations, such as when a person is convicted of possessing materials used to manufacture prescription drugs instead of illicit drugs. Penalties may include:

  • Prison: Drug manufacturing convictions can lead to prison sentences that last years. Drug manufacturing offenses are punishable by a minimum of one year in prison, but sentences can reach up to ten years. A misdemeanor drug manufacturing charge can result in up to a year in jail.
  • Fines: Fines for drug manufacturing can be substantial. A misdemeanor fine can be as much as $2,000, while a felony fine could be as much as $50,000 or more.
  • Probation: A judge may order someone convicted of drug manufacturing to serve a probation sentence in addition to, or separate from, fines and incarceration. Most probation terms last at least one year, but multi-year probation terms are also common. Probationers must follow the instructions of a probation officer and comply with specific probation conditions, such as not committing more crimes, paying all fees and fines, and submitting to random drug testing.
  • Restitution: In some states, you may have to pay restitution in addition to fines. Restitution in drug manufacturing cases is money you have to pay to cover the costs of any damage caused by the drug manufacturing activity or the costs for law enforcement to clean up a drug lab.

Increased Sentences for Specific Amounts and Types of Drugs

Anyone who makes or attempts to make a controlled substance is subject to drug manufacturing charges. A person who manufactures drugs could face significantly increased penalties if the amount they make exceeds the amount specified by law.

A state may impose a harsher penalty if a person is found with more than 9 grams of methamphetamine. Less severe penalties would apply if a person produced less than 9 grams. Different states have different amounts separating less severe from more severe penalties.

Exacerbating Circumstances

Manufacturing drugs under certain conditions could result in an enhanced penalty if you are convicted. When you manufacture drugs near children, you can be charged with a more serious crime than if no children were around. The more serious the crime, the greater the potential punishment.

What If I Did Not Actually Manufacture the Controlled Substance?

It makes no difference. Manufacturing the drug can be done directly or indirectly. Chemical synthesis can also be used. This is referred to as making a drug without any natural ingredients. Manufacturing that uses a combination of natural and chemical synthesis is illegal.

What If I Only Packaged Drugs?

A controlled substance is manufactured in many states by packaging, relabeling, labeling, and repackaging it. Therefore, packaging drugs and all that it entails is illegal under laws prohibiting manufacturing.

What Are the Penalties for Drug Manufacturing?

For manufacturing a controlled substance, each state has its own penalties. A drug manufacturing conviction in Pennsylvania carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. In Georgia, the same conviction carries a prison sentence of two to 15 years. The federal government also imposes penalties.

Should I Contact an Attorney about Unlawful Manufacturing of a Controlled Substance?

You can spend years in prison if convicted of drug manufacturing charges. Even if you don’t serve any time in prison, being charged and convicted of drug manufacturing can ruin your life and make it difficult for you to find employment. As soon as you are investigated or charged with a drug manufacturing crime, you need to consult a local criminal defense attorney. Lawyers with experience dealing with local judges and prosecutors and attorneys who know the drug laws that apply to your case are the only ones who can give you legal advice about your case.

Defending yourself against drug manufacturing charges is your right. Speak to a drug lawyer about possible defenses you can use to fight the drug charge.

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