States of Confusion

Q: I’m in Connecticut. Are my state’s steroid laws different from the federal laws?

A: Since most steroid busts are prosecuted under state laws, not federal laws, the first thing any potential juicer should want to know is exactly what gear-related conduct is criminal in his state and what penalties apply. Read on!

Each state has the right to enact its own laws to regulate drugs that are deemed dangerous. Generally, state legislatures place these substances into “schedules,” imposing restrictions on their availability and punishments for their possession, manufacture or distribution. Under federal law, there are five schedules of controlled substances ranging from Schedule I (high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use in treatment) to Schedule V (currently accepted medical uses and relatively low potential for abuse as compared to other controlled drugs). Congress and many states (including Connecticut, by regulation) have listed anabolic steroids under Schedule III, but there are exceptions. Examples: New York listed steroids in Schedule II and Vermont didn’t schedule them at all!

Each state is also free to define anabolic steroids as it pleases, typically by setting forth a laundry list of included compounds followed by a catch-all provision for any other muscle-building androgens that might have been overlooked. Regrettably, state and federal lawmakers appear to have received limited guidance from experts. For example, Congress and many state legislatures listed testolactone as an anabolic steroid, but as chemist Patrick Arnold has pointed out, this substance lacks testosterone’s anabolic and androgenic properties. As in the federal law, Connecticut lists D-bol twice, as “methandienone” and as “methandrostenolone”, and lists the potent androgen DHT as both “dihydrotestosterone” and “stanolone.” Why, in case you missed them the first time? In some states, such as Rhode Island, both anabolic steroids and human growth hormone are controlled substances. Pennsylvania, on the other hand, has gone out of its way to say that growth hormone “shall not be included as an anabolic steroid.” And Delaware inexplicably legislated the term “human growth hormone” to be “synonymous with the term ‘human chorionic gonadotropin’.” Huh? Wrong! What a mess!

States are further free to draft their own laws about how to deal with steroid offenders. Let’s take the typical first-time possession of a small quantity of juice for personal use. In Connecticut, it’s a misdemeanor with, at worst, up to a year in jail unless it occurs near a school, in which case there’s additional imprisonment. In Arizona it’s technically a felony, but under a new law eligible offenders get probation with drug treatment in lieu of prison. In Colorado, a bizarre distinction makes “using” juice a misdemeanor but “possessing” it a felony! In Florida and Georgia, simple possession of any amount is a felony with up to five years imprisonment, and in Alabama it’s a felony with up to ten years in prison! In Louisiana, you can face imprisonment with hard labor for a first offense of mere personal use possession!

We’re talking about maximum, not typical, sentences here, and many states have mechanisms favoring rehabilitation or supervision for first-time offenders, such as withheld judgments, suspended sentences, interim probation before judgment (PBJ) or pretrial diversion. On the other hand, you can expect higher potential punishments where there are aggravating factors such as large quantities or evidence of intent to distribute.

Rick Collins, JD, CSCS is the lawyer that members of the bodybuilding community and nutritional supplement industry turn to when they need legal help or representation.

[© Rick Collins. All rights reserved. For informational purposes only, not to be construed as legal or medical advice. ]