Most countries have laws that regulate drugs. Although these laws greatly vary, certain drugs are generally deemed illegal, while others are legal when they are obtained from legitimate sources and used appropriately. Drug offenses generally refer to criminal acts that are committed in connection with either legal or illegal substances. An example of such charges could include possession of marijuana or distribution of cocaine.
The severity of drug offenses generally depends on a number of factors. First, it usually matters how much of a drug the offense regards. For example, if a person is caught with a single marijuana cigarette, in some jurisdictions, this is akin to a traffic offense, and the person is simply forced to pay a fine. However, in that same jurisdiction, if the person is caught with a suitcase filled with marijuana and the drug exceeds a certain weight, it can be a serious crime that can result in a prison sentence.
The second important factor in drug offenses is generally the type of substance involved. Drugs are often classified so that some substances are recognized by the law as a greater threat to society than others. An offense involving a drug such as marijuana may be treated much milder than an offense for a drug such as heroin. Some drug offenses, even though they may involve small quantities, can carry severe consequences.
A third factor that is often considered with regard to drug offenses is what the offender intended to do with the drugs. In many instances, possession with the intention of personal consumption is less severe than charges of possession with the intention to distribute. When a person is caught with drugs that she plans to use, she may be able to avoid incarceration by entering a rehabilitation program.
In some countries, such as the United States (US), a large number of people in jails and prisons are there for drug offenses. Many people argue against incarcerating drug users and believe that there should be more emphasis placed on rehabilitating these individuals. It is commonly believed that incarceration is an ineffective method of rehabilitation for those struggling with addiction.
It is important to note that drug offenses can be committed with substances that are legal. This often happens with regards to prescription medication. Those who have legal access to these drugs may sell them to other individuals. In some jurisdictions this is a serious drug offense.
Drug offenses can exist at various levels of government. For example, in the US, states generally have drug laws. A person within the state can violate those laws, and her drug offense can be punishable by state courts. The federal government, however, also has drug laws. If she commits a federal offense, she will be dealt with by the federal criminal justice system.