Drug Possession vs. Drug Distribution: Everything You Need to Know

Under state and federal laws, the willful possession of controlled substances is considered a crime. Those who get arrested for drug possession will need the help of first-rate drug lawyers to guide them on how to move forward.

Drug possession is a serious charge that carries heavy penalties like fines and jail time. However, if authorities find evidence there was an intent to sell or distribute the drugs found in someone’s possession, they will be liable to face drug distribution charges.

Unfortunately, consequences for the latter are more severe compared to mere drug possession. Regardless of the charges faced, the help of a seasoned and competent drug lawyer is required.

Drug Possession Vs. Drug Distribution: How is One Different from the Other?

If you are found with illicit substances, you could face any of the following charges, depending on the evidence against you:

  • Possession
  • Trafficking
  • Distribution
  • Manufacturing

Drug Possession

The most common charge among the four is possession, as more people are likely to purchase drugs rather than distribute or sell them. Possession is defined as intentionally and knowingly having the controlled substance without any valid prescription and quantity that’s enough for selling or personal use.

In some states like Ohio, if you are caught in possession of 100-200 grams of marijuana, you will be slapped with a 4th degree misdemeanor. You can pay as much as $250 in fines and can face 30 days in jail.

Any more and you will be charged with a felony, which carries a harsher consequence—$2,500-$15,000 in fines and 6 to 8 years in prison, depending on the amount. Possession of more dangerous substances can automatically result in a felony. The severity of the punishment can vary depending on the quantity and the type of drug.

The law provides for two types of drug possession. One is actual possession, also known as “possession in fact.” In this type of drug possession, the drug is either found on the individual’s person, or the individual was caught having immediate physical contact with the controlled substance.

The other type of drug possession is called constructive possession. It is also sometimes referred to as “possession in law.” When charged with constructive possession, it means the suspect had knowledge, access to, and the ability to control the controlled substances found, even if it was not on their person at the time of the arrest.

One or more can be charged with constructive possession, like in the case of controlled substances found in an apartment where multiple people have keys.

Drug Distribution

Possession with intent to distribute is considered a more serious offense. Drug distribution is defined as a person offering or selling a controlled substance. It is also defined as the preparation, shipping, delivery, transportation, and distribution of an illegal drug when the individual knows it will be sold or resold by someone else.

If the quantity is 20 grams or less, the crime is a misdemeanor. However, when the quantity is 21-200 grams, it will be a felony charge. Those who are convicted of distribution of more than 40,000 grams of marijuana can get a mandatory sentence of 8 years and a penalty of up to $20,000.

Punishment for selling more dangerous drugs often come with harsher penalties. For instance, possession of heroin with intent to sell carries a maximum term of 11 years.


If you are facing drug-related charges, ensure you hire a lawyer with a lot of experience handling similar cases. Drug lawyers often know more about state and federal drug laws. Therefore, they are better equipped to help you out and get you the best possible results for your case.

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