The United States has the dubious distinction of being the world’s largest illegal drug market. But like any black market, there are also counterfeit controlled substances. Because there are no standards or regulations for illicit drugs, dealers can easily create fake substances to dupe buyers.
Some counterfeit drugs are benign; harmless household items like oregano and lactose powder could be passed off as marijuana and cocaine despite their lack of active ingredients. But some fake drugs are dangerous, such as attempting to sell off toxic laundry detergent as a powdered controlled substance.
In Ohio, it’s a crime to possess or sell materials passed off as controlled substances, even if they’re not actually drugs. Even a careless joke about possessing “drugs” could lead to fines and jail time.
Counterfeit controlled substances are illegal
Per Ohio law, it’s against the law for anyone to knowingly possess, make, sell or deliver any counterfeit controlled substance. It’s also a crime to sell or offer a fake drug to a juvenile, even if the substance has no intoxicating effects. The law also prohibits anyone from misrepresenting a counterfeit controlled substance as the real deal.
The punishments for counterfeit drug offenses
A person who knowingly holds a counterfeit controlled substance can face a criminal charge of possession of counterfeit controlled substances – a first-degree misdemeanor. On conviction, the person faces up to 180 days in jail and as much as $1,000 in fines.
Those who make, sell or deliver counterfeit drugs knowing the substances are fake can face a charge of trafficking in counterfeit controlled substances, which is a fifth-degree felony. This offense carries up to 12 months of prison and as much as $2,500 in fines on conviction.
Selling a fake drug to a juvenile leads to a charge of aggravated trafficking in counterfeit controlled substances. According to state law, this is a fourth-degree felony, which leads to up to 18 months of imprisonment and $5,000 in fines on conviction.
Misrepresenting a counterfeit controlled substance as having physical or psychological effects similar to real drugs leads to a charge of promoting and encouraging drug abuse – even if the fake drugs do nothing. This is a felony of the fifth degree, with its corresponding penalties. It becomes a felony of the fourth degree if the offense was committed near a school.
Meanwhile, falsely advertising a controlled substance as the real deal leads to a charge of fraudulent drug advertising. The offense is also a fifth-degree felony.
Fake drugs, real consequences
Even if a harmless substance is being passed off as a real illicit drug, anyone caught possessing it can be charged with an offense. There are real consequences for anyone participating in the illegal drug trade, whether the substances involved are real or otherwise.