Drug Crimes: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:03 What Are Drug Crimes?
  • 0:33 Examples of Drug Crimes
  • 1:46 Personal vs. Public Harm
  • 2:53 Other Motivations
  • 4:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson defines the concept of a drug crime. We'll explore several examples of different types of drugs crimes, and we'll discuss some theories behind why so many drugs are illegal.

What Are Drug Crimes?

Drug crimes are violations of laws that involve any combination of manufacturing, distributing, or using drugs that U.S. federal or state governments classify as illicit substances. This could mean growing the opium poppy, dealing heroin on the streets, or using cocaine. There are a lot of different types of drug crimes. This lesson goes over some examples and then explains why using an illicit drug is (generally, given some differing state and federal laws) a crime.

Examples of Drug Crimes

So what are some examples of drug crimes? Some drug crimes involve offenses that directly counteract a set law regulating or prohibiting the use, possession, manufacture, or distribution of illicit drugs. These crimes are called drug-defined offenses. For example, there are laws against the cultivation of marijuana. If you ignore these laws and grow marijuana in your basement with artificial lighting and irrigation, you're committing a drug-defined offense. There are also laws against distributing and possessing drugs. If you are caught transporting cocaine in a false door or bottom of your car, you've committed another drug-defined offense.

Other drug crimes have less to do with violating a specific law regulating the manufacture, distribution, or possession of drugs and more to do with drug-related offenses. For instance, someone might commit a crime partly because of the influence of the drug they're on. That's a drug-related offense. This could be assaulting someone while under the influence of a drug.

Another example of a drug-related offense is stealing money from your mom or from a local convenience store to get money to support your drug habit. A crime committed with respect to drug distribution, like shooting a rival drug dealer, is a drug-related offense as well.

Using and abusing a drug is (largely) a crime as well. But why? Why is it a crime to do something like this in the privacy of your own home? You mght argue that it's one thing to manufacture or distribute a drug but a personal choice such as drug use shouldn't be a crime.

Personal vs. Public Harm

There is more than one school of thought on this. One obvious answer to why it's a crime involves what you've already learned: drug-related offenses. While the choice to use a drug is yours, the effects of the drug use might not always be limited to you. Your driving while high might end up killing someone. Your state of mind might lead you to assault someone else. Thus, personal drug use can become a very real public danger.

Another good reason to criminalize the use of drugs is for personal protection. Some drugs are highly addictive and might lead to serious personal, economic, physical and mental collapse, and ultimately, death. Society creates laws to try and minimize the chances that one of its own dies for something as meaningless as, say, heroin. It's not beneficial to society at large to experience mental or physical decay for any reason, drugs included.

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