Cocaine is made from coca leaves. Nearly all cocaine is imported from the Andean region of South America. Most comes from Columbia. It is listed as a Schedule II controlled substance because, at one point, it was used for medical treatment, primarily as a topical anesthetic and to reduce bleeding in the mouth, nose, and throat. While cocaine has a recognized medical use, today it is rarely used medically in the United States.

Cocaine hydrochloride is a “salt” that is manufactured by reacting hydrochloric acid with the alkaloid compound cocaine. Cocaine hydrochloride is usually packaged as a white crystalline powder. Most cocaine sold on the street has been mixed or “cut” with some other substance (such as mannitol or inositol) to increase the quantity that dealers have available for sale. For drug penalty purposes, the non-drug portion of the mixture is treated as if it were cocaine.

Powder cocaine is typically ingested by inhaling it through the nose. Powder cocaine cannot easily be smoked because it will not vaporize until it reaches a very high temperature and tends to burn away before vapors are produced. It is relatively easy, however, to turn powder cocaine into crack cocaine, a hardened form of cocaine that vaporizes at a lower temperature and can easily be ingested by smoking. The penalties for federal felonies involving crack cocaine are much harsher than those that apply to powder cocaine.

While the National Drug Intelligence Center reports purity levels of cocaine for sale in Texas at 70 to 90 percent, the top end of that figure is likely exaggerated. Purity does tend to be higher in Texas than it is in some other parts of the United States, particularly when larger quantities are purchased. As a general rule, the farther from the Mexican border cocaine has traveled, the more often it has been cut.

Texas law defines cocaine as a narcotic drug. It is listed in Schedule II of the Texas Controlled Substance Schedules because it has an approved medical use, primarily as a topical anesthetic used in oral surgery and in surgical procedures involving the nose and throat.

Cocaine Penalties

A federal sentence for distributing (or possessing with intent to distribute) a mixture or substance containing powder cocaine, or for a conspiracy to distribute powder cocaine, depends upon the amount of the drug, whether the defendant has a prior drug conviction under state or federal law, and whether a serious injury or death resulted from use of the distributed drug. Offenses involving larger quantities require the court to impose amandatory minimum sentence.

  • Less than 500 grams (no injury):
  • First offense:  Maximum sentence of 20 years.
  • Second or subsequent offense:  Maximum sentence of 30 years.
  • Less than 500 grams (serious injury or death):
  • First offense:  Minimum sentence of 20 years, maximum of life.
  • Second or subsequent offense:  Minimum sentence of life.
  • At least 500 grams but less than five kilograms (no injury):
  • First offense:  Minimum sentence of five years, maximum of 40 years.
  • Second or subsequent offense:  Minimum sentence of 10 years, maximum of life.
  • At least 500 grams but less than five kilograms (serious injury or death):
  • First offense:  Minimum sentence of 20 years, maximum of life.
  • Second or subsequent offense:  Minimum sentence of life.
  • Five kilograms or more (no injury):
  • First offense:  Minimum sentence of 10 years, maximum of life.
  • Second or subsequent offense:  Minimum sentence of 20 years, maximum of life.
  • Five kilograms or more (serious injury or death):
  • First offense:  Minimum sentence of 20 years, maximum of life.
  • Second or subsequent offense:  Minimum sentence of life.

The maximum penalties described above may increase substantially and different mandatory minimum penalties may apply if:

  • the drug was distributed to a person under the age of 21;
  • the drug was distributed to a pregnant woman;
  • minors were employed to assist in the commission of the offense; or
  • distribution occurred near a protected area.

In addition to a potential prison sentence, fines and costs can be imposed, as well as a term of supervised release.

Penalties For Simple Possession of Cocaine

Simple possession is the term used to describe possession of a drug for personal use, not with the intent to distribute the drug to others. The range of sentences available for simple possession of powder cocaine depends upon whether the defendant has a prior conviction for a drug offense under state or federal law.

  • First offense:  Maximum sentence of one year.
  • Second offense:  Minimum sentence of 15 days, maximum of two years.
  • Third or subsequent offense:  Minimum sentence of 90 days, maximum of three years.

Contact a Drug Lawyer Today

If you are arrested for or charged with a federal offense involving powder cocaine, you need representation by a skilled federal criminal defense attorney. Contact one of our experienced attorneys at Hamilton Grant to discuss your case.