GHB Laws in California

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GHB Laws in California

In California, it is illegal to possess, manufacture, transport, sell, or be under the influence of gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB). Simply possessing GHB in a small amount can result in a misdemeanor, but this charge can typically be dismissed if the person opts to participate in a drug diversion. GHB is an odorless and colorless substance that can be abused because of its euphoric and sedative effects. GHB can often be referred to as “Georgia Home Boy” or “liquid ecstasy.” 

Legal use of GHB is commonly used in the medication XYREM and is used to treat narcolepsy. This drug is strictly regulated, however, because of its high potential for abuse. Overusing GHB can lead to medical problems such as troubles with breathing, seizures, coma, or even death. GHB acid is considered a “Schedule I” drug under the Controlled Substances Act. A Schedule I drug is a drug that has the potential for being abused and has no approved medical use in the United States. Its use in XYREM is only a small element of the approved drug.

To learn more about the details of GHB and the laws surrounding it, read on; H Law Group is here to provide clear and concise answers to your most important questions.

1. What is GHB, exactly?

GHB is a drug that can slow a person’s brain activity and is considered a central nervous system depressant. When combined with other depressants or even alcohol, then it can result in death because of its effects on the body. GHB comes in many different forms: a tablet, powder, clear liquid, or capsules. It can be practically colorless AND odorless and can also dissolve in liquid relatively fast. Because of this, GHB is considered a date rape drug. GHB was first created with the purpose of being an anesthetic and an ability to induce sleep. By the year 2000, GHB was deemed a Schedule I drug because of reports of its adverse effects in the previous couple of decades. In 2001, GHB was also deemed a Schedule III drug because of its use in a drug called XYREM, which is approved as a treatment of narcolepsy. XYREM is heavily regulated and is the only form of GHB that is legal. GHB is often used as a “club drug.” Club drugs are recreational and are used to enhance the experience of club culture (for example, bars, concerts, parties, etc.). Other club drugs include meth, ecstasy, and ketamine.

GHB can start to affect someone anywhere from ten minutes to an hour and can last up to three hours, typically. Effects of GHB include the following:

  1. Euphoria

  2. Muscles spasms and nausea

  3. Dizziness / sleepiness

2. California laws regulating GHB:

  • In California, it is illegal to possess, manufacture, and distribute GHB outside of lawful medical use.

  • California’s Health and Safety code section 11350 and 11377 HS describe the state’s laws regarding the personal possession of controlled substances.

  • A person violates these laws when they are in possession of GHB, or any other controlled substance, without a valid prescription.

  • When it comes to GHB, someone can only “have a valid prescription” when they have a valid prescription for XYREM from a doctor, and they abide by the guidelines detailed by that prescription.
  • Some other drugs listed under HS 11350 include hydrocodone, cocaine, heroin, and peyote.
  • Some other drugs listed under HS 11377 include ketamine, steroids, and methamphetamines.
  • California’s Health and Safety Code Sections 11351 and 11378 HS describe possessing GHB for sale. The laws deem it unlawful to possess GHB with an intent to sell it. Possessing GHB for sale is a more serious offense than possessing it simply for personal use.
  • Transporting and/or selling GHB is a more serious offense than having the “intent” to sell it because the person in question would have actually been charged with selling it. The laws deem it unlawful to transport GHB and/or sell it.

2.1 Penalties & fines

  • If they violate this law, then they will be facing misdemeanor charges and up to a year in jail.

  • These can be changed to felony charges if the person in question has had prior convictions of a serious nature (i.e., manslaughter). In that case, the penalty can be up to three years in jail.

  • The reason possession of GHB violates two different laws (11350 and 11377 HS) is because it is listed under both Schedule I and Schedule III drugs.
  • The fine relating to HS 11350 can be up to $20,000, and the fine relating to 11377 can be up to $1000.
  • These charges can often be dismissed by participation in a drug diversion program.
  • HS 11351 carries a penalty of up to four years in prison and up to a $20,000 fine.
  • HS 11378 carries a penalty of up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • HS 11352 carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and up to a $20,000 fine.
  • HS 11379 carries a penalty of up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • If someone is charged with transporting GHB across two counties with an intent to sell, then they could be facing up to nine years in prison.
  • If an illegal immigrant is found guilty of these charges, then they can be subject to deportation.

3. Possible legal defenses for GHB related charges:

  • Of course, if a person has a valid prescription for GHB for narcolepsy, and has been using the drug within the guideline of the prescription, then that is their best legal defense against a possible GHB charge.

  • If someone is charged for the sale of GHB, then a legal defense they can pursue is that they were merely in possession of GHB for their personal use alone.

  • Claim entrapment by a police officer to buy, sell, or transport GHB.

  • Claim the evidence of GHB was found through illegal means (i.e., illegal search and seizure).

  • The GHB in question did not belong to the defendant and the ownership of which was mistaken.
  • Subsequently, a person can violate California Vehicle Code 23152f VC by driving under the influence of drugs. The measure of impairment, in this case, is relative to how capable the person can operate a vehicle while being under the influence. Most convictions of this nature result in misdemeanors but can be felonies if the person in question has been convicted of severe crimes in the past.
  • Someone is considered to be “under the influence” of drugs if said drugs impair their physical or mental abilities in a detectable way.
  • A judge, in this case, will likely be more severe with the person’s punishment if they know the recipient of the GHB in question was pregnant, being treated for a mental illness, being treated for a drug problem, or was previously convicted of a violent felony.

If you have been charged with a GHB-related crime, or you simply want more information regarding the legal and illegal use of GHB in California, you can contact one of the attorneys at H Law Group or visit our website at the following link: