Cocaine is an illegal drug in the United States that has garnered lots of attention in the media because of its popularity as a recreational drug. Contrary to popular belief, cocaine does have a medically-accepted use, though its value to doctors and surgeons is very limited. Coupled with the high likelihood of addiction, this has led the U.S. to list cocaine as a controlled substance, making it a drug crime to buy, sell, possess, or use cocaine in America.
In California, there are laws against possessing cocaine as well as against possessing cocaine with the intent to sell it. Violating these laws can lead to a criminal prosecution that carries serious penalties if it ends with a conviction.
If you have been charged with a crime involving cocaine in Los Angeles, drug defense attorney William S. Kroger can help you defend against the charge, protect your rights, and keep your future intact.
What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a drug that can be derived from the coca plant, which is native to western South America. Recreationally, cocaine is the second most popular drug, trailing only marijuana, with an estimated 14 to 21 million users worldwide. The drug is particularly popular in North America, though there are lots of users in Europe and South America, as well, with an estimated 1% to 3% of adults having used cocaine at some point in their lives.
The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, an international treaty signed by 186 countries, requires signatory countries to prohibit and outlaw cocaine. Enforcement of cocaine laws in the U.S. have pushed the drug into the black market, where it still continues to be bought and sold under a variety of names, like:
- Nose candy
- Big C
Additionally, when cocaine is processed further by adding water and baking soda, it turns into crack cocaine, which is also known as:
The term crack cocaine comes from the crackling sound that happens when the drug is heated past its point of vaporization in order to be ingested.
In its pure form, cocaine is a finely-ground white powder that has a bitter taste. However, it is often dissolved in a liquid in order to be injected. When processed into crack cocaine, the fine white powder turns darker, nearly to a brownish tint, and comes together to form brittle rocks.
Medically, the only use for cocaine is as a local numbing agent for procedures in a patient's mouth or in their nose. However, even this use is being phased out as other drugs have been developed that replicate cocaine's effects without the possibility of addiction.
Effects of Cocaine
Cocaine is a popular drug to be used recreationally and abused because it inhibits the reuptake of three important chemicals and neurotransmitters in the brain:
These chemicals are responsible for how the mind processes and creates emotions, particularly happiness. By slowing their reuptake, cocaine increases the concentration of these chemicals in your brain, creating a feeling of euphoria and happiness, as well as an increase in energy, confidence, and alertness.
These effects make cocaine incredibly addictive: users become disappointed in how they feel when they are not under the influence. This quickly leads cocaine users to return to the drug as often as possible, creating a dependency that is often difficult to overcome.
In addition to the high that cocaine creates, there are also many adverse effects that users may experience. These include:
- Rapid heart rate or arrhythmia
- Paranoia and anxiety
- Increased blood pressure
- Muscle tremors or convulsions
- Increased body temperature.
Some of these adverse effects can be quite severe and can even cause significant heart problems, including cardiac arrest. There are also numerous long-term effects that sustained cocaine use can cause, including many mental and emotional problems. These tend to come from the neurological imbalances that cocaine causes and are responsible for the high that comes with using cocaine.
The intensity and duration of the effects of a dose of cocaine depend on how much is ingested and the administration method. However, the effects tend to last for up to an hour and a half and can be felt within a minute of taking the drug.
How is Cocaine Used in LA County and California?
Cocaine can be used in a wide variety of ways. The methods that bring the drug to a user's bloodstream quickly, though, tend to be more popular than other methods because of the sharper high these administration methods produce.
Injecting Cocaine in L.A. County
Dissolving cocaine in a liquid, loading the liquid in a syringe, and injecting it through a needle produces the highest blood levels of cocaine in the shortest amount of time, making injection the most popular administration method of the drug. It also allows users to create liquids that contain both cocaine and other drugs to get different effects. A popular example is a speedball, which mixes cocaine and heroin.
Inhaling Cocaine in L.A. County
Users can also freebase cocaine by adding water and baking soda to make crack cocaine and then heating it in order to inhale the resulting fumes. This is often done by using glass tubes made specifically for the purpose –- called “horns” or “stems” –- or even by using empty soda cans. Inhalation creates the quickest onset of cocaine's effects –- often within a couple seconds of inhalation –- but also has the shortest duration, with the effects wearing off in under a half hour.
Snorting or Blowing Cocaine in L.A. County
A third common way of taking cocaine is nasal insufflation, also known as “snorting” or “blowing” cocaine. Commonly portrayed in movies, users ingest cocaine powder through insufflation by drawing lines of cocaine on a flat surface and then inhaling the powder through a variety of objects, like straws, rolled up dollar bills, or dissected pens. A common side effect of inhaling cocaine like this is a nosebleed, as the nose and sinus are irritated by adulterants in the cocaine.
Cocaine is a federal and California State Controlled Substance
Because it is highly addicting and has very little medical use, cocaine is a controlled substance. On the federal level, cocaine is listed as a Schedule II drug in the Controlled Substances Act, while cocaine base is a Schedule I drug. In California, several state laws make it a serious criminal offense to possess cocaine or possess enough of it that there is an implied intent to sell it.
California Simple Cocaine Possession Offense
Convictions for cocaine possession come with harsh penalties. Most people charged with simple cocaine possession will face a misdemeanor charge that carries up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 if you get convicted. However, if you have a criminal background that includes either a sex crime that requires you to register on a list of sex offenders or a serious felony, your charge of cocaine possession would become a felony that is punishable with up to three years in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
However, because Health and Safety Code 11350 is California's statute dealing with personal drug use, misdemeanor charges can be handled with the state's drug diversion program. This would lead to a period of probation rather than jail time. While this seems like a much better option, there are significant downsides that you should discuss with an attorney before making a final decision.
California Possession of High Quantities of Cocaine Offense
If you are charged with possessing large amounts of cocaine -– far more than you could reasonably have used on your own -– law enforcement will presume that you intended to sell the drug. This can lead to charges under California Health and Safety Code 11351, which prohibits possession of cocaine with the intent to sell it, or under California Health and Safety Code 11351.5, which prohibits possessing cocaine base with the intent to sell it.
Convictions under 11351 for having cocaine with intent to sell are punished according to California Penal Code 1170, which carries a jail sentence of between 16 months and three years. A conviction for intending to sell cocaine base under 11351.5 can carry jail time of between two and four years.
Additionally, because these crimes are for selling cocaine and are not related to your personal drug use, diversion is not an option.
William S. Kroger: Los Angeles' Drug Defense Lawyer
William S. Kroger is a drug defense attorney in Los Angeles. By representing you in court, he can challenge the evidence that prosecutors will use to show that you committed the crime of cocaine possession. Through numerous prior cases, attorney Kroger has developed a system of defense that can help you beat these groundless accusations by defending your rights, protecting your interests, and helping you reach your future.
Reach out to drug defense and criminal defense attorney William S. Kroger at his Los Angeles law office by calling him at (323) 655-5700 or by contacting him online.