Ketamine was first used as an anesthesia medication. It has been around since the 1970s and used in both humans and animals. It is also a pain reliever when taken in lower doses. It is less addictive than painkillers like morphine, so it can be used instead of drugs that are more likely to lead to dependency or addiction, like opioids.

More recently ketamine has been used to treat patients with depression and suicidal ideation.

Ketamine does have the potential to be abused and some people use it for illicit purposes. Ketamine is also known as a club drug or  “Special K.” Ketamine is a “dissociative” drug and can cause hallucinations and change a person’s sense of sight and sound. It can make it difficult for the person taking it to speak or even move, and can also easily be slipped into a person’s drink. For that reason ketamine has been abused as a “date rape” drug. 

Some people who abuse ketamine abuse it in combination with other drugs. Using ketamine and other drugs at the same time has the potential to be fatal. Some negative reactions to ketamine include depression, amnesia, high blood pressure, and respiratory problems 

Drug trafficking laws regulate the sale, import, distribution, and manufacture of controlled substances. Ketamine is a controlled substance and is classified as a Schedule III drug according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Schedule III drugs are those that have a low to moderate potential for physical or psychological dependence. There is less potential for abuse than drugs classified as Schedule I or II. They can still be dangerous, especially when abused.

In California, defendants who possess ketamine are treated differently depending on whether they possess ketamine for personal use or are transporting, selling, or distributing ketamine. Possession of ketamine for personal use is only a misdemeanor in California, while the other crimes are felonies and subject to harsher penalties.

How Is Drug Transportation Defined in California?

In California it is a crime to sell, transport, transfer, or import a controlled substance. Transporting a controlled substance is moving it from one location to another. There is no minimum distance a drug must be transported for it to be considered criminal. A person can be charged with transporting ketamine in California whether they moved it from one room to another room, or from one city to another city.

California prohibits transporting controlled substances like ketamine, regardless of the amount transported, the distance it is moved, or by what means. A person might transport ketamine on foot, in a vehicle, or while riding a bike and be subject to the same laws that prohibit large-scale drug trafficking enterprises.

A person can be convicted of transporting ketamine even if they did not have possession of it. A defendant who knew the ketamine was present and had control of it could be found guilty of transporting ketamine. 

Does Transporting a Controlled Substance in California Involve Selling or Giving Away the Drug?

Transporting a controlled substance in California is a crime that is separate from selling a controlled substance. Selling ketamine means the defendant wanted something of value (usually money) in exchange for the drug. Transporting means moving or carrying ketamine from one place to another.

The defendant must have been transporting enough ketamine to be considered a “usable amount” of the drug. A usable amount is more than just residue. The usable amount requirement does not apply to the crime of selling a controlled substance.

Is This Charge the Same as Possessing Ketamine?

Transporting ketamine is a felony, while possessing ketamine is classified as a misdemeanor crime. Possession is the crime of having a usable amount of a drug, usually for personal use. Since there is no intent to sell, the defendant would not be charged with selling a controlled substance. 

Illegally possessing ketamine for personal use is a misdemeanor. A person can be charged with personal possession of ketamine if they have an amount for personal use and do not have a valid prescription. A person who has a prescription but possesses more than the prescription allows might also be charged with personal possession of ketamine. 

A defendant convicted of the misdemeanor crime of personal possession of ketamine could face up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Defendants accused of personal possession will usually have the opportunity to participate in a drug treatment program. A defendant who successfully completes a drug diversion program will have their charges for possession of ketamine dismissed.

Defendants who possess enough ketamine to indicate there is intent to sell the drug to other people or who are actively engaged in the sale of ketamine are charged with possession for sale of ketamine. This is what is known as a “wobbler.” A “wobbler” offense is a crime that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Whether a defendant is charged with a felony or a misdemeanor will depend on the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal history. Drug diversion programs are not available for defendants charged with possession for sale of ketamine.

A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in a country jail and a fine of up to $1,000. A defendant convicted of a felony could face between 16 months and three years in a California state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

What Kind of Time Can I Get For Transporting Ketamine in California?

Transporting ketamine in California is a felony. Penalties for trafficking ketamine in California usually involve a defendant being sentenced to between three and five years in a California state prison. 

Are There Any Defenses I Can Use to Fight My Ketamine Drug Charge?

There are several defenses available to a defendant charged with trafficking ketamine that might lead to a not guilty verdict, lesser charges, or less severe penalties. These include the following:

  • The defendant lacked the required intent to sell or transport the drug.
  • The drugs were for personal use and there was no intent to sell them.
  • The defendant lacked knowledge ketamine was present or did not know that what they were transporting was ketamine.
  • The defendant did not know that the ketamine was a controlled substance.
  • Entrapment by the police or other law enforcement.
  • The defendant had a valid prescription for ketamine. This defense is quite rare since ketamine is used as an anesthesia, making it very unlikely anyone would possess it for use outside of a hospital.

The defenses available depend on several factors, including the facts of each individual case, as well as the skill and experience of the attorney handling the case. 

Should I Talk to a Lawyer about Fight My Drug Charge?

Transporting ketamine is a serious offense and conviction of this crime could lead to several years in prison. If you have been arrested for transporting ketamine you should contact a California drug lawyer. An experienced attorney can help you understand the charges and explore any defenses that might be available to you. A criminal lawyer can help gather evidence and communicate with the prosecution. They can also represent you in court if the case goes to trial.