Remember in kindergarten when you learned it’s rude to hog all the crayons or claim territory on the playground? Remember figuring out this lesson with your siblings through painful trial and error (probably more painful for your parents, but painful nonetheless)? Well, as an adult, this largely still rings true. If you bring in a bunch of donuts to work it’s rude not to let Debra from accounting have one, no matter how obnoxious she is. When you order a meal with fries with your family, you know that means some of those fries must be sacrificed to keep the peace. So yes, sharing is indeed still caring as a grown-up — but not for everything.

You may already know sharing certain items isn’t recommended due to safety concerns, but depending on the item, there are possible legal considerations as well — specifically when it comes to prescription medication. It doesn’t matter how many extra you’re given or what the pill is or how innocent the exchange; sharing prescription drugs with ANYONE, INCLUDING family and friends, is dangerous on more levels than you think and entirely illegal.

Yes, sharing your Adderall is illegal in Maryland (but you can share your weed)

Prescriptions, in general, exist for a reason. They weren’t just invented as a way to keep the good stuff expensive and hard to get (though that’s arguably part of it). They’re meant as proof that a licensed, professional doctor reviewed your symptoms, came to a diagnosis, and — pay attention to this part — decided with their medical expertise that the medication on the prescription is the best option for you. For you, specifically. Just you. Prescriptions are a way of enforcing regulation and legitimacy, which in turn makes everything safer, more trustworthy and harder to abuse.

So, yeah. Going against any of that in any way is not, strictly speaking, legal, even if you’re just giving old painkillers to your kid or your sibling or whoever. Controlled substances may only be dispensed from a qualified pharmacist to the person listed on the prescription.

Those accused of messing with regulated medication can face some pretty serious consequences. Prescription drug charges can cover everything from simply possessing a pill you shouldn’t have to accusations of trafficking and distribution (see where this is going?). If you’re convicted, your penalties can be a small fine — or they can be a prison sentence and a not-so-small fine.

There is some good news to all of this, though. Right now, in Maryland, as long as both the giver and receiver are 21+, it IS legal to share weed. You can’t get paid for it, but gifts between adults are entirely okay (and a great way to make friends). There are a couple other caveats (like it can’t be the medical strength stuff and you can’t gift Snoop Dogg amounts) but hey, fewer caveats than with prescription stuff!

Trafficking encompasses a lot

While a lot of factors come into play to elevate a drug charge from distribution to trafficking, it’s not as outlandish or impossible as one may think (and hope). No, you’re not going to be labeled a drug kingpin for selling one of your Adderalls to a buddy (but that is STILL ILLEGAL), but you might be if you sold a few Adderalls to a few buddies and they referred more buddies to you. Distribution is still a crime but it can result in a fine and nothing more. Once money is exchanged, and especially if that money gets to a significant amount, you’re facing felony charges with incredibly serious implications.

And remember — you only have to be suspected of trafficking to be charged with it, and you only have to have a slightly weaker defense in court to be convicted. Whether or not you’re actually a drug kingpin or trafficker doesn’t really come into play. If you’re known for distributing prescription drugs for money, you could land in some serious hot legal water.

Again, a lot of factors come into play. What the drug is, if funds are exchanged, if state lines are crossed, how much money you’ve received, if you had intent to sell (even if you didn’t actually sell anything) — all of this and more can elevate your charges, and trust me when I say that’s all the prosecution wants to do.

Non-legal dangers of sharing prescription medication

If you’re reading this and thinking, “Sure, it’s illegal, but I like living life on the edge,” or something about it being a victimless crime, think again. It is illegal for a REASON. Yeah, part of that reason is money, but there are also genuine health risks to consider with sharing prescription meds. Almost every year, Maryland updates their rules and regulations regarding controlled substances and how pharmacists must report them because constant vigilance and transparency is the best way to ensure things are as safe as possible, and part of that involves making sure the only person using a prescribed drug is the person it was prescribed to.

But fine, you’re a wild child. You don’t care that it’s illegal. You’re sharing meds with a family member and you’re not even getting paid; what’s the big deal? Well, here’s why it matters outside of the law:

  • Medications affect different people in different ways. What if it has an ingredient your friend/family member is allergic to? What if it has side effects, and they’re severe? What if it interacts poorly with other medication they’re on?
  • Dosage matters, in a similar vein. The correct dosage for you is not the same for everyone, even if you have the same symptoms.
  • It’s much easier to get addicted to prescription medication you don’t need.
  • If you’re on the receiving end of the medicine, what if it’s not the pill you think it is? Sure, you trust your friends and loved ones, but where did THEY get it from? It’s not unheard of for fake pills with even more dangerous ingredients to be packaged and shaped like real ones. Who’s to say your source wasn’t lied to?

Frankly, these four reasons should be enough, but the illegality of the situation is partially to get the importance truly across. It’s not just Maryland, either. Sharing prescription meds is illegal in almost every state and even federally. Not only that, but making it illegal isn’t the only way states are combating the issue. To use our wonderful state again, Maryland participates in the National Drug Take Back Day, during which time people can dispose of extra/expired prescribed medication in a safe and easily accessible way. See, “just having extra” is a large part of why sharing happens in the first place. “Expired but not really” is another. National Drug Take Back Day makes those excuses moot — or at least, likelier to be.

Defenses exist; just not without an Annapolis defense attorney

If you effed around and found out (or are suspected of it) and you’re now facing prescription drug charges of any sort, you don’t have to lay down and accept your fate. Even if the charges are especially minor OR especially severe, there are options available to you — but only if you’re not trying to represent yourself. The law is complicated and confusing on PURPOSE, and you as the defendant do not want to try to untangle it alone. The prosecution wants you to for a reason. Remember, being innocent of the crime doesn’t mean you won’t be convicted. If you’re innocent as can be but you accidentally implicate yourself in court or stumble over your defense or get legal specifics wrong, you can pretty much just plead guilty and get it over with.

However, if you have a skilled criminal defense attorney on your side, they (read: I) can study and investigate your specific case and come up with defenses tailored to your situation. This could be anything from asserting that the drugs weren’t yours to entrapment to a fumbled chain of custody to simply questioning the arresting officer’s “reasonable” suspicion. Once a defense strategy is chosen, your attorney can then put their (my) knowledge and experience to use presenting that defense in court. No, no one can guarantee you’ll have every charge dismissed (and sometimes only lessening charges or penalties are possible), but your chances are far greater than trying to do it alone.

If you’re in Annapolis or Ellicott City, you need the experience of Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law, on your side. I’ve been fighting these fights for decades and I know how to provide compassionate, tireless representation to every client I have, in any situation they may have. Those facing prescription drug charges shouldn’t wait — contact me today, and let’s get started.

Remember — Keep Calm, and Call Drew!