Can the Hand be Prosecuted for Distributing Synthetic Heroin?

Marvel’s Iron Fist episode “Under Leaf Pluck Lotus,” included the Hand using Rand Enterprises as a front to sell synthetic heroin. The over-the-top sexy women pushing the drugs claimed to prospective dealers that the drug was “legal,” because it was synthetic. Better yet for the dealers, the human body would not develop a resistance to it.

Federal Courts, Congress, and the DEA would take issue with the Hand’s position that a synthetic drug with all of the effects of a Schedule I drug is somehow legal. The Bad Guys don’t get to make the call on what is legal and illegal.

The United States has a long history of battling heroin. Congress first banned the importation of crude opium for manufacturing heroin in 1909 and again in 1924. 68 P.L. 274.

Heroin is a Schedule I drug, which means: (A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse; (B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States; and (C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision. 21 U.S.C.S. § 812.

The factors applied by the Attorney General in determining whether to add or remove a drug from the schedules include:

(1) Its actual or relative potential for abuse.

(2) Scientific evidence of its pharmacological effect, if known.

(3) The state of current scientific knowledge regarding the drug or other substance.

(4) Its history and current pattern of abuse.

(5) The scope, duration, and significance of abuse.

(6) What, if any, risk there is to the public health.

(7) Its psychic or physiological dependence liability.

(8) Whether the substance is an immediate precursor of a substance already controlled under this title.

21 U.S.C.S. § 811.

Federal law also states it is unlawful for anyone to 1) “to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance;” or 2) “to create, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to distribute or dispense, a counterfeit substance.” 21 U.S.C.S. § 841.

There is no way around the fact the Courts would treat synthetic heroin like heroin. First, the Attorney General would classify it as a Schedule I drug because of its high potential for abuse, the lack of any medically accepted use for treatment, and the lack of any accepted safety for the use of the drug. The affects of the drug are the same as heroin, regardless of whether any crude opium is used.

New York Courts would also have no trouble prosecuting anyone selling the Hand’s synthetic heroin. Pursuant to New York Public Health Law § 3383, it is “unlawful for any person to manufacture, sell or possess with the intent to sell, an imitation controlled substance.” The synthetic heroin is an “imitation controlled substance.” New York’s finest [in the Marvel Cinematic Universe] would have legal authority to conduct drug busts and prosecute those selling the synthetic heroin.

No matter how much the Hand chases the dragon that the lack of crude opium somehow makes the drug legal, the synthetic heroin is technically a counterfeit drug under the law. Federal and State law enforcement would be upholding the law with massive raids to break the Hand’s synthetic heroin ring.

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Josh Gilliland

Josh Gilliland is a California attorney who focuses his practice on eDiscovery. Josh is the co-creator of The Legal Geeks, which has made the ABA Journal Top Blawg 100 Blawg for 2013 to 2016, the ABA Web 100 for Best Legal Blog and Podcast categories, and was nominated for Best Podcast for the 2015 Geekie Awards. Josh has presented at legal conferences and comic book conventions across the United States. He also ties a mean bow tie.