Business & Professions Code § 4060 BP prohibits the possession of a controlled substance without a current and valid prescription from a health care provider. Healthcare providers may possess controlled substances in the lawful course of their work as long as the drugs are in labeled containers.
The full text of the statute reads:
4060. A person shall not possess any controlled substance, except that furnished to a person upon the prescription of a physician, dentist, podiatrist, optometrist, veterinarian, nurse practitioner practicing pursuant to Section 2837.103 or 2837.104, or naturopathic doctor pursuant to Section 3640.7, or furnished pursuant to a drug order issued by a certified nurse-midwife pursuant to Section 2746.51, a nurse practitioner practicing pursuant to Section 2836.1, a physician assistant pursuant to Section 3502.1, a naturopathic doctor pursuant to Section 3640.5, or a pharmacist pursuant to Section 4052.1, 4052.2, or 4052.6. This section does not apply to the possession of any controlled substance by a manufacturer, wholesaler, third-party logistics provider, pharmacy, pharmacist, physician, podiatrist, dentist, optometrist, veterinarian, naturopathic doctor, certified nurse-midwife, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant, if in stock in containers correctly labeled with the name and address of the supplier or producer.
This section does not authorize a certified nurse-midwife, a nurse practitioner practicing pursuant to Section 2836.1, a physician assistant, or a naturopathic doctor, to order their own stock of dangerous drugs and devices.
California Business & Professions Code 4060 BPC prohibits people from possessing a controlled substance unless it is prescribed to them by either a:
- nurse practitioner
- naturopathic doctor
- certified nurse-midwife
- physician assistant1
The above people themselves may possess controlled substances in the course of their work as long as the narcotics are in containers and labeled with the name and address of the producer or supplier.
Example: Ted works as a pharmacist. One night he steals some Ritalin pills from the pharmacy and brings them home for him to use. Here, Ted is violating BPC 4060 because he took a controlled substance he did not have a prescription for out of his workplace for his own use. It does not matter that Ted handles controlled substances all day when filling prescriptions for customers.
People caught with controlled substances in California face criminal charges for violating Health & Safety Code 11350 HS – possession of a controlled substance. Unlawful drug possession is typically a misdemeanor carrying:
- up to $1,000 in fines and/or
- up to 1 year in jail2
Defendants may be able to do a drug diversion program and – upon successful completion – get the case dismissed.3
Can I give my medications to someone else who has a prescription for the same medication?
No. Under BP 4060, a person may only possess controlled substances prescribed to them and administered to them. Patients cannot legally share medications, even if they were prescribed the same kind.
How do I fight drug possession charges?
If you are caught with prescription controlled substances that were not prescribed to you, you may be able to get the charge reduced or dismissed by showing:
- You did not realize the drugs were there (perhaps someone else left them in your home or planted them on you);
- You never exercised actual or constructive possession over the drugs; or
- The police found the drugs through an unlawful search or seizure.
Can health care providers prescribe medications to themselves?
It is not a good idea. According to the American Medical Association Code of Medical Ethics,
“Except in emergencies, it is not appropriate for physicians to write prescriptions for controlled substances for themselves or immediate family members.”4
- California Business & Professions Code 4060 BPC – Possession of controlled substance. See People v. Kennedy (Cal. App. 1st Dist. 2001), 91 Cal. App. 4th 288; People v. Doss (Cal. App. 2d Dist. 1992), 4 Cal. App. 4th 1585.
- Health & Safety Code 11350(a) HS.
- Penal Code 1000 PC.
- AMA Ethics Opinion 8.19 – Self-Treatment or Treatment of Immediate Family Members.