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Dispensing Controlled Substances Over the Internet

Only practitioners who are registered with the DEA and are properly licensed can prescribe controlled substances. These requirements also apply to online pharmacies, although the requirements in question will vary depending on the specific drug being filled. Unfortunately, many innocent people who are unaware of these rules or who accidentally violate one are charged with unlawfully dispensing controlled substances over the internet. With a potential jail sentence on the line, it is especially important for these individuals to contact an experienced federal crime lawyer who can help them begin formulating a defense.

Prescribing Guidelines

The steps that a pharmacist is required to take before filling a prescription for a controlled substance over the internet depends on the drug in question. Controlled substances are generally divided up into five categories, referred to as schedules. Schedule I substances include heroin and marijuana, while Schedule II drugs are limited to codeine, amphetamine, Ritalin, morphine, Oxycodone, and PCP. Schedule III drugs include anabolic steroids, and products that contain small quantities of Schedule II substances in combination with noncontrolled ingredients. Finally, Schedule IV covers drugs such as, Xanax, Valium, Lorazepam, and Phenobarbital, while Schedule V is limited to buprenorphine and cough medicines that contain codeine.

Pharmacists who are asked to fill Schedule II prescriptions, must receive written prescriptions that have been manually signed before they can fill the medication. Schedule III, IV, and V drugs, on the other hand, only require an oral or faxed prescription, as long as the pharmacist can confirm the legitimacy of the prescription and the prescriber. Further, Schedule II substances cannot be refilled over the internet and controlled substances falling under the Schedule III, IV, and V categories can be refilled five times, although no prescription can be filled more than six months after the date of issue. Finally, only those who are registered with the DEA as importers can have controlled substances shipped into the country.


Like all pharmacies, internet pharmacies must register the actual physical location of the entity that purchases and dispenses controlled substances with the DEA. The website itself, on the other hand, does not need to be separately registered. The pharmacy must also be licensed in the state where drugs are distributed and in any state in which it conducts business with customers.

Offenses and Penalties

Those who fail to comply with these rules may face serious consequences, as it unlawful under federal law to intentionally:

  • Use a fictitious, suspended, expired, or revoked registration number for the purpose of acquiring or dispensing a controlled substance;
  • Obtain a controlled substance by fraud or misrepresentation;
  • Use or manufacture machinery used to print or reproduce a trademark upon a drug or container in order to provide a counterfeit substance;
  • Distribute a controlled substance without registration; and
  • Provide fraudulent material information in order to receive a controlled substance.

Even advertising the sale or distribution of a controlled substance over the internet is punishable under federal law if the ad directs buyers to an internet seller who isn’t registered. Defendants who are convicted of these offenses are subject to a fine of $30,000 and up to four years in prison for each offense. The sentence will be enhanced, however, if a defendant has any prior drug-related convictions.

Call Our Legal Team Today

To speak with an experienced federal crime attorney about your own pending drug charges, please call Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A., Criminal Defense Attorneys at (305) 670-9919 today. Our Miami legal team is prepared to assist you immediately.


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