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Is it a crime to switch around the labels of drugs?

On Behalf of | Nov 6, 2023 | Criminal Law |

In 2021, Montana joined a growing list of U.S. states that have legalized marijuana for both recreational and medical use. Although the state continues to ban the possession and consumption of the substance in public, people are free to consume and even cultivate their cannabis.

But while cannabis is legal in the state, Montana is still strict when it comes to dangerous controlled substances such as heroin, LSD, opium and peyote.

To get around the state’s tough laws against controlled substances, some people might resort to changing the labels or the appearance of these substances to pretend they’re safe and legal. It could be as simple as keeping illegal drugs inside a bottle used for prescription medicine or as complicated as selling fentanyl in the shape of common prescription opioids.

Not only is swapping or altering labels very dangerous, but it’s also illegal in Montana.

Mislabeling leads to mishaps

Per state law, a person commits the offense of altering labels on dangerous drugs if they affix a forged or altered label – or misrepresent – a package holding a dangerous drug. This law also applies to falsely labeling marijuana products as hemp.

The penalties for drug misrepresentation

If a person is convicted of altering labels on dangerous drugs, they’ll face county jail imprisonment for up to six months. The person may also face charges for fraudulently obtaining dangerous drugs, leading to up to five years of prison and $50,000 in fines for a first conviction.

Mislabeling is dangerous for the user and anyone else who might come across the altered drug. The only time switching or altering the labels of drugs isn’t a crime is if the materials involved aren’t part of the state’s list of scheduled controlled substances – but even this little mischief can be dangerous.