In the past decade, drug laws and crimes have gotten a lot of attention. Laws in every state and at the federal level prohibit the possession, manufacture, and sale of certain controlled substances -- including drugs like marijuana, methamphetamine, ecstasy, cocaine, and heroin. Controlled substances are the focus of much attention from legislators and law enforcement. It is estimated that drug and alcohol abuse costs society over $110 billion a year -- through accidental death and injuries, health care, dependency treatment, criminal behavior, and more.

Drug Laws:

Though there is a longstanding federal strategy in place to combat the abuse and distribution of controlled substances, each state also has its own set of drug laws. One key difference between the two is that while the majority of federal drug convictions are obtained for trafficking, the majority of local and state drug arrests are made on charges of possession. Out of these state and local arrests, over half are for the possession of marijuana.

Another difference between federal and state drug laws is the severity of consequences after a conviction. Federal drug charges generally carry harsher punishments and longer sentences. State arrests for simple possession (i.e. possession without intent to distribute the drug) tend to be charged as misdemeanors and usually involve probation, a short term in a local jail, or a fine -- depending on the criminal history and age of the person being charged.

Distribution and Trafficking:

As a drug charge, "distribution" usually means that a person is accused of selling, delivering, or providing controlled substances illegally. This charge is often used if someone tries to sell drugs to an undercover officer. Trafficking generally refers to the illegal sale and/or distribution of a controlled substance or drug smuggling. Despite the name, trafficking has less to do with whether the drugs cross state lines, and more to do with the amount of drugs involved.

Manufacturing:

Under federal and state drug laws, the government can charge a person for playing a part in the cultivation or manufacture of a controlled substance. Cultivation includes growing, possessing, or producing naturally occurring elements in order to make illegal controlled substances. These elements include cannabis seeds, marijuana plants, etc. A person can also be charged for producing or creating illegal controlled substances through chemical processes or in a laboratory. Substances created this way include LSD, cocaine, methamphetamine, etc.