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Virginia Laws Regulating the Sale & Distribution of Dextromethorphan


The Commonwealth of Virginia has laws against many drug crimes, regulating the sale, distribution, and possession of various substances. One of those substances is dextromethorphan, which is an active ingredient in numerous cough medicines.

Dextromethorphan usually functions as a cough suppressant, delivering sedative, dissociative, and stimulant effects. High doses of dextromethorphan can cause harmful consequences, including cardiovascular and liver issues. Accordingly, Virginia law regulates the sale and distribution of dextromethorphan.

Sale or Distribution of Dextromethorphan to Minors

Code of Virginia Section 18.2-265.20 makes it unlawful for a pharmacy or retail distributor to sell or distribute dextromethorphan to a minor under 18 years old. Any pharmacy or retail distributor that knowingly or intentionally violates this requirement is subject to a civil penalty in the amount of $25.

Before selling dextromethorphan to any person, pharmacies and retail distributors must generally request a local, state, or federal government-issued ID that displays a photograph and the birth date of the purchaser. Any pharmacy or retail distributor who violates this requirement will receive a notice of noncompliance. A second or subsequent violation will result in a $25 civil penalty.

Section 18.2-265.20 also makes it unlawful for a minor to knowingly or intentionally purchase dextromethorphan. Any minor who does so anyway is subject to a civil penalty in the amount of $25.

Finally, Section 18.2-265.20 establishes a medical exception for the sale or distribution of dextromethorphan to minors. It does not qualify as a violation if a medical doctor issues a prescription authorizing the sale of dextromethorphan to a minor. In those situations, a pharmacy or retail distributor may sell or distribute dextromethorphan to a minor.

Distribution of Unfinished Dextromethorphan

Code of Virginia Section 18.2-265.21 makes it illegal to distribute unfinished dextromethorphan, which exists as a bulk drug substance. It is also a crime to possess unfinished dextromethorphan with the intent to distribute.

Any person who violates Section 18.2-265.21 is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted for this class of misdemeanor, the maximum punishment includes 12 months in county jail and $2,500 in criminal fines, either or both.

There is an important exception under Section 18.2-265.21. This section does not apply to certain individuals registered under or authorized by the:

  • Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S Code Section 321 et seq.); or
  • Drug Control Act (Code of Virginia Section 54.1-3400 et seq.)

For these registered or authorized individuals, it is not a crime to possess or distribute unfinished dextromethorphan.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you need legal help with charges for the unlawful sale, distribution, or possession of dextromethorphan in Virginia, it can be decidedly valuable to contact a knowledgeable Leesburg drug crime lawyer. The lawyers at Simms Showers LLP feature extensive experience defending against criminal charges, including drug crimes like the unlawful sale, distribution, or possession of dextromethorphan. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.


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Contact the Leesburg, Winchester & Loudoun County Attorneys of Simms Showers LLP today

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