Everybody knows that cocaine is an illegal drug, and that a cocaine possession conviction can have serious consequences. The laws have become more stringent when it comes to drug crimes. The punishments for being charged with a drug crime can be severe depending on which state you are in. But what exactly is cocaine, and why does being accused of having it warrant a criminal defense lawyer?

Cocaine is an organic compound in crystal form derived from the leaves of the coca plant, from the tropane alkaloid ecgonine. The coca plant is a cash crop indigenous to South America, and has traditional and current medicinal, religious, and nutritional uses. Coca plant food products such as granola bars can be found commercially in supermarkets in fashionable suburban areas. The various components of the coca plant are used medicinally as a stimulant, much like coffee beans, as well as an anesthetic and analgesic, and for hunger suppression. It is also used to alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness.

There is actually very little cocaine produced from the coca plant, less than 0.77%, and yet the coca plant is known primarily for this by-product. Cocaine itself was first isolated in 1855 by Friedrich Gaedcke, a German chemist who called it erythroxyline, but it was in 1879 that it was first applied in Western medicine as an analgesic, and then later as an anesthetic. At one point, it was used to counteract the effects of addiction to morphine, sold in drugstores as a cheap stimulant, and distributed as pep pills to German war troops during World War II.

It is now widely known that cocaine is a dangerous and highly addictive substance. It is one of the most popular illegal recreational drugs in the US, second only to marijuana. Cocaine is considered the most dangerous of all central nervous system (CNS) stimulants because it is highly addictive and can cause sudden cardiac arrest. It also alters the brain chemistry with prolonged use, leading to radical behavior and personality changes.

Although earlier reports stated that cocaine led to criminality, it was only with the Jones-Miller Act of 1922 that cocaine production and sales was finally prohibited. Cocaine is classified as a Schedule I under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 and is an illegal substance to have, use, and sell in most countries.

Possession of cocaine is a felony, but the applicable prison term escalates with the amount of cocaine found on a defendant, who may face as much as 50 years in prison. Because of the severity of the consequences, it is important to immediately retain an Appleton criminal lawyer with extensive experience in dealing with drug crimes to avoid conviction or at least reduce it to a lesser charge. A lawyer can make a real difference for those who are facing these kinds of charges.

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