Responsibility for storage, use and distribution of drugs

Drug addiction is an extremely acute problem in Ukrainian society, causing illnesses, deaths, and broken lives. Many people commit crimes for the sake of a desired “dose.” Therefore, the attitude towards those accused of manufacturing or distributing drugs in society is traditionally sharply negative. The Ukrainian judiciary is also very strict: most articles of the Criminal Code of Ukraine provide for actual imprisonment for crimes related to drug trafficking.

However, it is tragic that one does not necessarily have to manufacture drugs or be a dealer to receive a prison sentence. Many young people, who are not involved in drug trafficking or growing hallucinogenic plants, end up caught in the grip of the law enforcement system after making a single mistake.

Who is at Risk?

Typically, young people aged 18-30, frequenters of nightclubs, or those in difficult financial situations who want to “earn” a small amount of easy money in one go. They agree to make a “stash” or transport drugs from point “A” to point “B,” and then unexpectedly encounter law enforcement officers. As a result, these unfortunate earners are suspected of transporting or selling narcotic substances, psychotropic substances, or their analogues.

Those who occasionally use amphetamines or cannabis in crowded places (discos, nightclubs, noisy parties at friends’ homes) also risk being accused of similar crimes. Another example is someone who, out of curiosity, wanted to experience the feeling of drug intoxication (a high). Unfortunately, ordering drugs, such as hallucinogenic mushrooms, is quite easy. And when the customer tries to receive the “goods,” they are detained by the police.

The main thing that unites the people in these examples is that they are not systematically involved in drug trafficking or manufacturing narcotic substances. Most of those caught by law enforcement are inexperienced individuals who decided to try their luck just once.

Responsibility for drug use

Article 309 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine does not use the term “use” of narcotic substances, psychotropic substances, or their analogues. However, this does not mean that a person who uses drugs does not fall under the responsibility provided for by this article, as the process of drug use is impossible without their manufacture, acquisition, storage, or transportation.

The responsibility for committing the aforementioned actions can include a fine, corrective labour, probation, restriction of liberty for up to 5 years, or imprisonment for up to 8 years.

At the same time, part 4 of Article 309 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine provides for the possibility of release from criminal liability for the mentioned actions if the person voluntarily applied to a medical institution and began treatment for drug addiction.

However, criminal liability is not the only type of responsibility that can be applied to the guilty person.

Thus, Article 44 of the Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offenses provides for responsibility for illegal production, acquisition, storage, transportation, sending of narcotic substances or psychotropic substances without the purpose of sale, i.e., for personal use, in small quantities. For example, a small amount of cannabis is up to 5 grams, cocaine is up to 0.02 grams, heroin is up to 0.005 grams, LSD is up to 0.00001 grams, methamphetamine and ecstasy are up to 0.15 grams.

For committing such an administrative offense, a sanction in the form of a fine, community service, or administrative arrest is provided.

By analogy with the Criminal Code of Ukraine, a person who voluntarily surrenders narcotic substances or psychotropic substances that were in their possession in small quantities and that they produced, manufactured, acquired, stored, transported, or sent without the purpose of sale is released from administrative responsibility.

Illegal production, storage, and transportation of narcotic substances for sale

Crimes of this category have the characteristics of direct intent and are associated with a specific purpose – the sale of narcotic substances and psychotropic substances. As a rule, such criminal offenses are committed for selfish motives, with the aim of easy enrichment.

Quite often, the suspect is charged with storing a large amount of narcotic substances ready for sale, especially if they are found in packaged form. This is considered almost indisputable evidence of the unlawful intent to sell. At the same time, it is quite difficult to prove that the narcotic substances were stored for personal use.

To expose persons involved in the illegal production, acquisition, storage, transportation, sending, or direct sale of narcotic substances and their analogues, law enforcement agencies conduct covert investigative (search) actions – operational purchases.

As judicial practice shows, almost half of all convictions related to drug sales are based on evidence obtained through covert investigative (search) actions.

Law enforcement officers often resort to provocations and incite individuals at risk to commit crimes.

A drug sale provocation is understood as direct or indirect incitement, inducement, or encouragement to commit illegal actions aimed at transferring narcotic substances to law enforcement officers or individuals participating in operational-search activities on behalf of the law enforcement agency.

However, criminal liability for drug sales can be avoided if, during the trial, the fact of provocation by law enforcement officers is proven.

Also, a person who voluntarily surrenders narcotic substances, psychotropic substances, or their analogues and indicates the source of their acquisition or assists in solving criminal offenses related to their illegal trafficking is exempt from criminal liability.

For committing a criminal offense provided for in Article 307 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, a punishment of 4 to 8 years of imprisonment is provided. If such a crime is committed repeatedly, by prior conspiracy by a group of persons, or if the person is found to be part of an organized criminal group or organization, the punishment can reach 12 years of imprisonment with confiscation of property.

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