Contact Us for a Free Consultation (877) 781-1570

Meth Manufacturing

Manufacturing Methamphetamine - 21 U.S. Code § 841

Methamphetamine is a powerful, highly addictive synthetic substance that affects the central nervous system, known for its rapid onset and long-lasting effects. 

It is commonly used recreationally for its euphoric effects but poses significant health risks and potential for dependency. For this reason, federal law takes a firm stance against the manufacturing and distribution of controlled substances such as methamphetamine.

21 U.S.C. 841 makes it a federal crime to manufacture the controlled substance methamphetamine.

21 U.S. Code 841 Prohibited Acts A says, “(a) unlawful acts - it shall be unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally—

(1) to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled substance; or

(2) to create, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to distribute or dispense, a counterfeit substance.

In the case of a violation of subsection (a) of this section involving—

(viii) 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, its salts, isomers, and salts of its isomers or 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, its salts, isomers, or salts of its isomers.

The possible penalties for manufacturing and dispensing meth are some of the most severe that the sentencing guidelines allow—with fines ranging into tens of millions of dollars and a high possibility of life imprisonment, particularly if serious bodily injury or death occurs as a result of the crime. 

What Does the Law Say?

Methamphetamine distribution is typically prosecuted under Title 21 U.S.C. 841, which makes it a federal drug offense to knowingly or intentionally "manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense" any controlled substance, which includes methamphetamine. 

To procure a conviction under this law, federal prosecutors must establish the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt: 

  • You possessed, or had control over, a controlled substance, such as methamphetamine,
  • You knew that the substance was a controlled substance, and
  • You manufactured, distributed, or dispensed the substance or
  • You demonstrated willful intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense the controlled substance. 

Other things to know about this law:

  • The actual distribution of methamphetamine is not required for a conviction. Under this law, the intention to manufacture or distribute meth is subject to the same penalty as actually manufacturing and distributing it.
  • The law covers substances containing meth as well as any derivatives. This includes its salts, isomers, and salts of its isomers, or any mixture containing a detectable amount of these substances.

What are Related Federal Laws?

21 U.S. Code Part D, Offenses and Penalties, has several federal statutes related to 21 U.S.C. 841, prohibited acts A, such as the following:

  • 21 U.S.C. 842 - Prohibited acts B,
  • 21 U.S.C. 843 - Prohibited acts C,
  • 21 U.S.C. 844 - Penalties for simple possession,
  • 21 U.S.C. 844a - Civil penalty for possession of small amounts of certain controlled substances,
  • 21 U.S.C. 846 - Attempt and conspiracy,
  • 21 U.S.C. 847 - Additional penalties,
  • 21 U.S.C. 848 - Continuing criminal enterprise,
  • 21 U.S.C. 849 - Transportation safety offenses,
  • 21 U.S.C. 850 - Information for sentencing,
  • 21 U.S.C. 851 - Proceedings to establish prior convictions,
  • 21 U.S.C. 852 - Application of treaties and other international agreements,
  • 21 U.S.C. 853 - Criminal forfeitures,
  • 21 U.S.C. 854 - Investment in illicit drug profits,
  • 21 U.S.C. 855 - Alternative fine,
  • 21 U.S.C. 856 - Maintaining drug-involved premises,
  • 21 U.S.C. 858 - Endangering human life while illegally manufacturing a controlled substance,
  • 21 U.S.C. 859 - Distribution to persons under age twenty-one,
  • 21 U.S.C. 860 - Distribution or manufacturing in or near schools and colleges,
  • 21 U.S.C. 860a - Consecutive sentence for manufacturing or distributing, or possessing with intent to manufacture or distribute, methamphetamine on premises where children are present or reside,
  • 21 U.S.C. 861 - Employment or use of persons under 18 in drug operations,
  • 21 U.S.C. 862 - Denial of Federal benefits to drug traffickers and possessors,
  • 21 U.S.C. 862a - Denial of assistance and benefits for certain drug-related convictions,
  • 21 U.S.C. 862b - Sanctioning for testing positive for controlled substances,
  • 21 U.S.C. 863 - Drug paraphernalia,
  • 21 U.S.C. 864 - Anhydrous ammonia,
  • 21 U.S.C. 864a - Grants to reduce the production of methamphetamines from anhydrous ammonia,
  • 21 U.S.C. 865 - Smuggling methamphetamine or methamphetamine precursor chemicals into the United States while using facilitated entry programs.

What are the Possible Penalties If Convicted? 

The penalties prescribed under 21 U.S.C. 841 are exceptionally severe. This is one of the few sections of the law where a defendant may be sentenced to "more than life" in prison. 

Actual sentencing guidelines vary based on the quantity of the drug involved, the defendant's criminal history, and the consequences of the drug distribution. Here's a breakdown of the possible penalties.

For First-Time Offenders

  • 5 grams to 49 grams pure meth or 50 grams to 499 grams mixture: Minimum of 5 years and up to 40 years in prison; if death or serious bodily injury results from the use of such substance, not less than 20 years or more than life. There may also be a fine of up to $5 million for individuals and $25 million for organizations.
  • 50 grams or more pure meth or 500 grams or more mixture: Minimum of 10 years and up to "more than life" in prison; if death or serious bodily injury results, mandatory life imprisonment. There may also be a fine of up to $10 million per individual and up to $50 million for organizations.

With Prior Drug Convictions

The statute imposes even harsher penalties on repeat offenders. A second offense raises the minimum imprisonment term to 5 years for 5-49 grams of meth, and 15 years for 50g or more, with the possibility of life imprisonment. 

Should there be a connection to death or serious bodily injury, life imprisonment becomes mandatory. Fines can double, reaching up to $20 million for individuals and $75 million for non-individual entities.

The minimum imprisonment term escalates to 25 years for those with two or more prior convictions. Additionally, the law mandates a term of supervised release of at least five years for first-time offenders and ten years for those with prior convictions, further underlining the zero-tolerance policy for drug offenses.

Enhanced Penalties

As steep as these penalties are, further enhancements may apply if certain circumstances are met. For example:

  • Distributing meth within 1000 feet of a truck stop or rest area can result in triple the maximum sentence. (See 21 U.S.C. 849).
  • Distributing meth to people under age 21 can result in twice the maximum sentence, which is three times the maximum for repeat offenders (See 21 U.S.C. 859).
  • Manufacturing or distributing methamphetamine on or near a school or college campus can result in twice the maximum sentence, three times the maximum for repeat offenders (See 21 U.S.C. 860).
  • Employing anyone under 18 in the distribution of meth can result in twice the maximum sentence, which is three times the maximum for repeat offenders (See 21 U.S.C. 861).

What are the Common Defenses?

Facing methamphetamine manufacturing charges under 18 U.S.C. 841 necessitates a robust defense strategy, given the high stakes involved. Common defenses may include, but are not limited to:

  • Lack of Knowledge or Intent: The attorney may argue that you were unaware of your involvement in drug manufacturing or distribution, and therefore you did not willfully or intentionally make or distribute meth.
  • Unlawful Search and Seizure: Violations of the Fourth Amendment rights, such as searching without a warrant or probable cause, can lead to excluding illegally obtained evidence, potentially weakening the prosecution's case.
  • Entrapment: This defense applies if law enforcement agents induce you to commit a crime you otherwise would not have committed.

Contact our federal criminal defense lawyers for more information. We represent people throughout the United States on federal criminal matters. Eisner Gorin LLP is based in Los Angeles, California.

Related Content:

Contact Us Today

Eisner Gorin LLP is committed to answering your questions about Criminal Defense law issues in Los Angeles, California.

We'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Make A Payment | LawPay