Murfreesboro drug defense attorney

Penalties for Synthetic Drug Crimes in Tennessee

Both state and federal laws have existed for decades in the United States making it illegal to possess, manufacture, or distribute a long list of illicit as well as some prescription drugs. Recently, however, a new category of drugs has emerged. Collectively, these new drugs are referred to as “synthetic drugs” and are usually substances that were once legal but are now considered illegal. These “synthetic drugs” are frequently marketed as incense, potpourri, bath salts, or other ostensibly innocuous products. A Murfreesboro criminal lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains the penalties you could face if convicted of aMurfreesboro drug defense attorney synthetic drug crime in Tennessee.

What Are Synthetic Drugs?

The term “synthetic drugs” covers a range of substances that mimic the effects of other illegal or prescription drugs. Manufacturers often label these substances as “not for human consumption” to avoid the oversight of the Food and Drug Administration, even though they know people consume them to get high. 

For example, synthetic stimulants, commonly referred to as “jewelry cleaner” or “bath salts” are synthetic cathinones, including such drugs as MDPV, a-PVP, pentedrone, pentylone, mephedrone and methylone.  Synthetic marijuana, on the other hand, known by such names as “K2,” “Kush,” and “Spice,” is made up of synthetic cannabinoids that have been applied to plant material such as damiana or marshmallow leaf. According to the Office of the National Drug Control Policy, the effects of synthetic cannabinoids include severe agitation and anxiety, nausea, vomiting, tachycardia (fast, racing heartbeat), elevated blood pressure, tremors and seizures, hallucinations, dilated pupils, and suicidal and other harmful thoughts and/or actions. Similar to the adverse effects of cocaine, LSD, and methamphetamine, synthetic cathinone use is associated with increased heart rate and blood pressure, chest pain, extreme paranoia, hallucinations, delusions, and violent behavior, which causes users to harm themselves or others.

Tennessee Penalties for a Synthetic Drug Offense Conviction

Tennessee law makes it a crime to knowingly produce, manufacture, distribute, possess, or possess with intent to produce, manufacture, or distribute the active chemical ingredient in salvia, as well as almost twenty other synthetic cannabinoids identified in the statute. A first-time conviction is a Class D felony with a potential term of imprisonment of two to four years and/or up to a $50,000 fine. A second or subsequent conviction is a Class C felony punishable by three to six years in jail and/or a maximum $100,000 fine. If the offense involves a minor, you could face additional penalties. 

Moreover, certain chemical compounds used in synthetic drugs are prohibited by name under Tennessee law. Other synthetic drugs are regulated as imitation controlled substances or controlled substance analogues. The manufacture, distribution, or possession with intent of imitation controlled substances is a Class E felony that carries a possible jail sentence of one to two years and/or a fine between $2,000 and $5,000. Manufacturing or selling controlled substance analogues is a more serious Class D felony. Ingesting or consuming an imitation controlled substance as well as the possession or casual exchange of a controlled substance analogue are Class A misdemeanors that carry a potential penalty of up to 11 months 29 days in jail and/or fine of $250 to $2,500.

Potential Penalties for a Federal Synthetic Drug Trafficking Conviction

Synthetic drugs are also illegal under U.S. federal law. Specifically, the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act, part of the FDA Safety and Innovation Act of 2012, placed 26 types of synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Drugs listed in Schedule I of the CSA are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Federal law also allows many synthetic drugs to be treated as a listed controlled substance if they are chemically and/or pharmacologically similar to a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance. 

The penalties you may face if convicted of synthetic drug trafficking in federal court are often the same as those for illicit or prescription drugs. Generally, a conviction for trafficking a Schedule I or II drug as a first offense carries a penalty of five to 40 years in prison while a second offense carries a sentencing range of 10 years to life and if death or serious injury occurs, you face life in prison. For Schedule I or II drugs that are not considered chemically and/or pharmacologically similar to a listed drug (known as an “analogue”) you may still face up to 20 years in prison for a first offense and up to 30 years for a second offense.

Contact a Murfreesboro Criminal Lawyer

If you have been charged with a synthetic drug criminal offense in Tennessee, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro criminal lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your legal options. In Tennessee contact a Murfreesboro criminal lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby to discuss your legal options. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.


Dinah Michael