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Possessing drug abuse instruments, paraphernalia – what’s the difference?

On Behalf of | Nov 28, 2023 | Drug Possession, Misdemeanors |

Ohio has a very strict stance against illegal drugs and controlled substances. Not only is it a crime to possess and consume these illicit substances, but it’s also an offense to have any of the instruments or paraphernalia used to administer, cultivate or produce these drugs.

Notably, the state has two separate laws prohibiting drug abuse instruments and drug paraphernalia. What’s the difference between the two, and why should it matter to those facing charges?

Drug paraphernalia

Per state rules, drug paraphernalia means any type of equipment, product or material used by persons to cultivate, grow, harvest, manufacture, prepare, test, package, store, conceal, inject, ingest, inhale or introduce controlled substances into the human body.

The term broadly covers many items related to the consumption and production of controlled substances, such as growing kits, isomerization devices, scales to weigh the product, diluents, hypodermic syringes, roach clips, bongs, and so on.

Illegal possession and use of drug paraphernalia is a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. On conviction, a person faces up to 30 days in jail and $250 in fines.

Drug abuse instruments

According to state law, drug abuse instruments refer to implements such as a hypodermic or syringe used to administer or use a dangerous drug specifically.

Dangerous drugs might not sound any different from the controlled substances prohibited by law due to their potential for abuse. Still, an Ohio statute explains what sets these dangerous drugs apart from other controlled substances; they’re drugs that users can’t normally ingest and must inject into themselves. Because dangerous drugs are injected, drug abuse instruments are generally needles.

Possession of drug abuse instruments is a misdemeanor of the second degree, which leads to up to 90 days in jail and $750 in fines. However, if a court previously convicted the offender with another drug abuse violation, the offense instead becomes a misdemeanor of the first degree. A conviction for this enhanced offense carries up to 180 days in jail and $1,000 in fines.

In summary, the type of controlled substance or illicit drug involved decides whether a piece of equipment is drug paraphernalia or a drug abuse instrument. A conviction for possessing a drug abuse instrument is harsher than one for possessing drug paraphernalia. There is some overlap in the definitions with certain equipment such as syringes, so a case can swing one way or the other depending on what the court decides. Those facing charges should keep this distinction in mind and consider discussing it with a legal professional to learn what options they have in their case.

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