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Possession of a Precursor with Intent to Manufacture - Smurfs - Purchase of Cold Medicine

Possession of a Precursor with Intent to Manufacture a Controlled Drug
vs. Misdemeanor Possession / Purchase of Cold Medicine in Oklahoma

By Tulsa Criminal Defense Attorney – Glen R. Graham

Sometimes people making a purchase of cold medicine are called "smurfs" by law enforcement officials and other parties. The word "smurf" comes from the television and comic series called "The Smurfs." Smurfs are imaginary blue cartoon characters and typically archetypes of everyday people. In the 1980's, the smurf cartoon series was one of the most popular television programs. It is unclear why law enforcement and others would call over the counter cold medicine buyers "smurfs."
Low grade drug runners are sometimes called "mules" because they a viewed as people with mule like characteristics, in that, they work for other people who are the masters, and the mules are just the "stupid pack animals" that work for the masters, or people in control. The analogy would be that the smurfs are people who a lower echelon workers or no-bodies who work for the Papa Smurf or the people in control and that the smurfs just do the buying for someone else. Calling people derogatory names like "smurfs" seems to be questionable although it may be understandable and easier to say that calling them "lower echelons" who are not the actual manufacturers.
Oklahoma laws dealing with possession of a precursor in listed in Title 63 of the Oklahoma Statutes. But, there are also federal laws with have limits on possession of a precursor. Sometimes the government will file cases in both state and federal court, or they may dismiss the state charge and re-file the case in federal court.
The Oklahoma statutes are in 63 O.S. Section 2-332

“B. Except as provided in this subsection, possession of a drug product containing more than nine (9) grams of ephedrine, pseudoephedrine or phenylpropanolamine, or their salts, isomers or salts of isomers shall constitute a rebuttable presumption of the intent to use the product as a precursor to methamphetamine or another controlled substance. The rebuttable presumption established by this subsection shall not apply to the following persons who are lawfully possessing drug products in the course of legitimate business . . .

A case out of Oregon - dealing with misdemeanor possession of precursor - simple possession versus possession of precursor with intent to manufacture is State v. Moreno, 104 P.3d 628 (2005), 197 Or. App. 59:

A useful quote from this case is: “In effect, the state asks us to conclude that a jury could infer the requisite "conscious objective to" manufacture methamphetamine from the same facts that constitute the misdemeanor offense of possession of pseudoephedrine. On this record, however, such an inference requires too great a leap and would require speculation, rather than logical inference. See State v. Lopez-Medina, 143 Or.App. 195, 201, 923 P.2d 1240 (1996)style="font-size:130%;"> (evidence is insufficient to support an inference when the conclusion to be drawn from it requires "too great an inferential leap" because the logic is too strained). The same is true of any inference that defendant was working "in concert" with a specific individual who had the wherewithal to manufacture methamphetamine and the physical equipment and site to do it. Not a shred of 631*631 evidence in this record suggests the existence of such a person.”

This case indicates that merely possessing cold medicine does not prove possession with intent to manufacture. If the purchaser denies that he or she is purchasing the cold medicine for anything illegal like manufacturing a controlled drug, then the state would be required to show some evidence to prove the intent. Usually, the defendant makes an incriminating statement or they may possess evidence that indicates that they had intent to manufacture.

In sum, the mere possession does not automatically prove possession of a precursor with intent to manufacture, but under Oklahoma law, there is a “rebuttable presumption” that the possession of 9 grams of the prohibited substance is with intent to manufacture.

Under Oklahoma law, Title 63 O.S. Section 2-212 (A), states:

"No person shall purchase, receive, or otherwise acquire more than nine (9) grams of any product, mixture, or preparation within any thirty (30) day period. Provided, the requirements of this subsection shall not apply to any quantity of such product, mixture or preparation dispensed pursuant to a valid prescription.

Federal law prohibits a person from purchasing a product containing more than 3.6 grams of a product containing Ephedrine, pseudoephedrine or phenylpropanolamine. The Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 can be found in Title VII (7) of the USA Patriot Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-177), and it was implemented into the Controlled Substances Act of Title 21 U.S.C. Sections 801-971. For additional information see:

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