Since its creation in 1919, methamphetamine has been under question about its appropriate legal uses. Experimental use in the 1920s led to elimination of the drug for purposes of alleviating depression or as a decongestant. It is legally produced in the U.S. and marketed under the name Desoxyn. Illegal use of methamphetamine appears to have begun primarily during the 1950s, when Methedrine was produced. This drug was abused most frequently by truck drivers and students who wished to make use of longer periods of alertness produced by taking large doses of these pills. Athletes were drawn to its performance enhancement properties and became frequent abusers, as well.
During the 1960s, illegal use of the drug escalated as large supplies of water-soluble methamphetamine were made available on the market and could easily be injected. In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act made the production restricted, which curtailed much of its use for several decades.
Meth Laws in the United States
Nearly all of the methamphetamine used and sold in the US is made illegally. Because of this, law enforcement agencies nationwide have focused their attention on intercepting the chemicals used in creating methamphetamine. These chemicals are ephedrine—which has a varied legal-use background, as discussed below—and pseudoephedrine, which is equally questionable, legally.
Classified as a schedule II substance by Drug Enforcement Administration, which follows worldwide standards set by the UN Convention, methamphetamine is restricted in the US. Schedule II drugs are those found to be of some use pharmaceutically, but also found to be dangerous when abused and to have high likelihood for abuse. Due to its highly addictive properties, this drug is infrequently prescribed. Laws have been developed to contain not only the manufacture and use of methamphetamine, but also the drugs that are used in its creation. The two most used and restricted are ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. Since 2005, restrictions were included in The Patriot Act to control the sale of these ingredients, called the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act.
Trafficking in methamphetamine has long been the primary business practice of outlaw motorcycle groups. Methamphetamine is considered to have begun its manufacture in California, where several of these groups have their strongest membership numbers and beginnings in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Many of the larger methamphetamine labs that operate illegally were originally housed in the west and southwest parts of the U.S., with a large number of those being shifted into Mexico, where the sale and possession of both ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are legal.
While methamphetamine use and abuse hit record highs in the late 1990s and early 2000s, there is a slight decrease in arrests for both possession and sales of methamphetamine, according to a DEA report published in 2004. The penalties for possession and sales of methamphetamine vary from state to state and depend largely on the amount of the drug seized. Restrictions on sales of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are believed to have been responsible for the decrease in use of methamphetamine in youth, aged 12 to 18, according to the same DEA report.
Violence is becoming an increasing factor in drug production, as seen in the gang wars raging amongst motorcycle gangs in the US and the warring drug factions in Mexico. Weapons are part and parcel of the illicit drug trade, and the effects on those who ingest methamphetamine are widely-known. An increase in unstable mental health as a result of meth use is believed to partially explain the increasing violence of drug traffickers. Due to their well-established routes of supply and demand, Mexico’s drug cartels are believed to be the most prolific traffickers in illegal methamphetamine, as well as the largest producers, due to the availability and procurement of vast amounts of both ephedrine and pseudoephedrine.
Penalties for possession and sale of methamphetamine vary state to state. Some states have laws that allow for treatment of addiction for the offender, rather than incarceration. In the state of California, possession of methamphetamine is illegal, under Health and Safety Code 11377. Possession of methamphetamines for sale is deemed illegal under Health and Safety Code 11378.
Convictions under both Health and Safety Code 11377 will frequently be allowed what is termed PC1000, a feature of Proposition 36, which equals felony probation. The more serious sentence, under HS 11378 for possession for sale may range from probation to prison sentences of four years. Manufacturers of methamphetamine will receive much harsher sentencing in the California courts. Laws regarding sentencing and convictions for those who endanger children while under the influence of methamphetamine or in the process of manufacturing the drug are some of the strictest and most enforced in California law.
Methamphetamine Laws in UK
According to the Medicines Act and the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, methamphetamine is a controlled substance. This means that they are available by prescription, but use outside prescribed doses or persons is illegal. Meth is considered a Class A drug in the UK, which carries a penalty for possession of up to seven years of prison, along with an undetermined fine. For sales of illegal methamphetamine, the prison sentence can be life imprisonment.
Methamphetamine Laws in Canada
Small amounts of methamphetamine in Canada can be seen as a summary offense, which is punishable by a fine of $1000 and six months in jail, or both. While it is considered a class III drug in Canada, in accordance with the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, only large quantities that are possessed with intent to sell are considered for longer sentences, which would be deemed trafficking and punishable by up to 10 years in prison.