State and federal authorities are working as hard as ever to crack down on the use and distribution of methamphetamine and heroin.

As of July 1, 2015, Oregon joined Washington among the growing number of states that allow the recreational use of marijuana. That does not mean the “War on Drugs” is over. Authorities in Washington and Oregon have placed a high priority on combating drugs that have no chance of becoming legal any time soon: methamphetamine and heroin. Cracking down on the possession and distribution of both drugs are priorities throughout the Northwest.

In June, the Oregon High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program named methamphetamine as the state’s “greatest drug threat” followed closely by heroin. For several years, meth production fell in the Northwest due to increased difficulty in obtaining pseudoephedrine. However, Mexican cartels, including Sinaloa and Los Zetas, have increased production and smuggling operations, flooding the area with meth and heroin. Heroin use has been increasing since the mid 2000s, in part because many prescription painkillers are becoming more difficult and expensive to obtain – leading many to turn to the cheaper and readily available heroin.

In 2014, heroin and methamphetamine overdoses in Washington increased by nearly 60 percent, according to the University of Washington Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute.

Penalties for meth and heroin remain high

Prosecutors in the Northwest have turned to the “Len Bias” law as a method of prosecuting drug traffickers. This federal law allows prosecutors to seek a 20-year sentence against anyone in the supply chain, even other users, after an overdose occurs. Created in the 1980s after the death of a University of Maryland basketball player overdosed on crack cocaine, the law was rarely used until a spike in Opioid-related deaths led Oregon to pioneer the use of the law to go after high-level meth and heroin trafficking operations.

High-level traffickers aren’t the only ones who face severe penalties. In Washington, the possession of pseudoephedrine and certain ammonia types can lead to methamphetamine manufacturing charges, a class B felony that is punishable by up to 10 years in jail. Anything other than a small amount of methamphetamine can lead to distribution charges.

Heroin is also punishable as a narcotic drug under the Washington’s Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act. Like methamphetamine, anything other than trace amounts of heroin can lead to charges of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, also a class B felony. Mandatory minimum sentencing for first-time sale of heroin is two years in jail and a $25,000 fine.

Criminal defense of drug possession, distribution and manufacturing charges

Prosecutors have many tools at their disposal when charging defendants with drug-related crimes. State and federal laws remain strict, despite increasing criticisms of the War on Drugs and mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

Washington residents facing drug crime charges need experienced, aggressive representation when faced with such penalties. At Green & Ritchie, PLLC, our attorneys are former prosecutors who understand the methods and tools used by prosecutors to seek convictions under state and federal laws. Contact our office to discuss your legal options and defense.

Keywords: Heroin, methamphetamine, drug crimes, marijuana, criminal defense, drug possession, drug trafficking.

Green Ritchie & Bogar, PLLC