In the U.S., it is illegal to manufacture, possess, transport, or sell illicit methamphetamine. One must have a prescription in their own name if they are found with medical methamphetamine. Methamphetamine use in America is framed as a criminal issue, with people who use methamphetamine subject to incarceration, removal of children and separation of families, and other punitive measures. 


A federal first conviction for simple methamphetamine possession can result in a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. If a person has 5 grams or less of methamphetamine, that would count as simple methamphetamine possession under federal laws. To visualize, one gram of methamphetamine is about as big as a quarter.

Drug possession charges can result when someone is found carrying methamphetamine, or it is in their car, or other belongings. It could also mean someone was found using the drug when they were arrested. 

DPA supports decriminalizing methamphetamine and all other drugs.


Trafficking is the charge given when law enforcement believe there was the intent to distribute the drug to others. If a person has between 5 and 49 grams of pure meth, or 50 to 499 grams of a mixture, it is considered possession with intent to distribute (trafficking), and federal sentencing ranges from 5 to 40 years. The sentencing goes up for larger amounts. State methamphetamine laws vary. 


Manufacturing methamphetamine carries a federal sentence of up to 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for the first offense, and up to 20 years and a $500,000 fine for the second offense. The sale of over-the-counter (OTC) medications like Sudafed are restricted because they contain pseudoephedrine, a precursor to the manufacture of methamphetamine.

How These Laws Affect Families

One out of every 14 children in this country has a parent who is imprisoned, and a major factor is because of the mass incarceration of people convicted of drug law violations, including methamphetamine. These punitive approaches disproportionately impact low-income families and communities of color. 

The ideal way to support the best interests of children is to keep families intact while providing supportive resources to caregivers. Drug consumption or exposure alone is not abuse or neglect, and holistic, community-based treatment models for parents with problematic substance use should be the priority for child welfare systems. 

Draconian sentencing for methamphetamine-related offenses and removal of children from homes, among countless other punitive measures for people who use methamphetamine, do not strengthen communities and families and do more harm than good.

See the fact sheet for more information and sources.