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Can scientists face charges for possessing illegal substances?

On Behalf of | Aug 29, 2022 | Criminal Defense

There are times when research requires people to work with illegal substances. Illegal drugs, like heroin or cocaine, sometimes get used to determine if they have medical benefits or if they could be adapted for certain other needs.

Most of the time, the people who work with these illicit substances do have clearance to do so. However, the way in which they possess these drugs and how they use them are limited. If they go outside what they’re allowed to do, they could end up facing drug charges.

How do scientists get ahold of illegal substances?

The basic answer to this is that the National Institutes on Drug Abuse, or NIDA, does have a catalog of drugs that researchers can order from. This catalog contains all kinds of substances including those that are illegal to purchase or obtain otherwise.

For example, if a researcher wants to do research on cocaine, they can reach out to NIDA with the quantities needed and a description of what they’re going to be using it for.

Getting to the point of being able to order is difficult, though, because certain drugs, especially Schedule I drugs, are so heavily restricted that it’s necessary to go through significant legal barriers before accessing them.

For researchers to access Schedule I drugs, they may need to get permission from NIDA, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and their own Institutional Review Board (IRB). Then, they will need to use the drugs only as intended. If any leaves the lab or is used inappropriately, there is a potential that they could face drug charges like anyone else.

What should you do if you’re transporting an illicit substance legally?

If you have to transport a drug that you’re working with through research or other means and have permission to do so, you’ll want to keep all the appropriate paperwork with you. Store the drug as required by law, and follow your organization’s requirements.

If you are accused of drug possession or other related drug crimes when you have permission to possess them, this can be a strong defense as long as you have the documentation to back your claims.