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What are the Legal Drug Classifications?

Posted in California Law,Drug FAQ'S on July 22, 2021

Most people have heard that drugs are “classified” on certain schedules. However, it can be confusing to understand exactly what this drug schedule classification means. In 1970, the federal government passed the Controlled Substances Act in response to the growing drug epidemic in the US. This Act established five separate drug classifications (schedules).

What are Legal Drug Classifications?

Here, we want to briefly define each classification of drugs and list some common drugs under each schedule.

Schedule I

Schedule one drugs are those that have a high potential for abuse as well as the potential for extreme dependence. Currently, there is no accepted medical use for these drugs (according to federal law), and possession is illegal. No federal medical license is available for drugs in this classification. Some of the most common drugs in this schedule include the following:

  • Marijuana
  • Heroin
  • Ecstasy
  • Psychedelics

Schedule II

Schedule two drugs also have a high potential for abuse and dependence, though many drugs in this classification do have current acceptable medical uses. Some of the most common drugs in this classification include the following:

  • Morphine
  • Adderall
  • Ritalin
  • Methadone

Schedule III

Schedule three drugs are considered a moderate abuse and dependence risk. Schedule three drugs do have accepted medical uses, and it is usually possible to get a legal prescription. Some common drugs in this classification include the following:

  • Marinol
  • Ketamine
  • Steroids

Schedule IV

Schedule four drugs have a lower risk of abuse potential and limited potential for dependence. Schedule four drugs have accepted medical uses, and it is possible to get a prescription for the following:

  • Tramadol
  • Ambient
  • Xanax
  • Difenoxin

Schedule V

Schedule five drugs have a low potential for abuse and low potential for dependence. There are many types of drugs in this schedule that it is possible to obtain a prescription for, including the following:

  • Cough syrups
  • Lyrica
  • Motofen
  • Lomotil

What is the Purpose of Classifying Them?

The schedule that a drug is placed in is supposed to be determined by the legitimacy and value of potential medical uses, along with the level of risk of addiction and the potential for abuse. However, certain drugs end up in schedules where they may not belong due to the obligation of the US to meet diplomatic agreements with the international community.

Classification on the Federal and State Level

All of the classifications of drugs that we mentioned above are based on the federal classification schedule set forth in the 1970s. However, states have their own drug classification schemes as well. In general, states do follow federal law very closely. What we will see, though, is that state classification systems let these individual states respond more quickly to potentially dangerous drugs or to roll back regulations on drugs that have been found to have a medical use. Change at the federal level takes much more time than changes at the state level.

For an example of how states have altered classifications on their own, we can look at New York. There, hydrocodone combination drugs were reclassified from schedule three to schedule two in order to increase the regulation of these drugs.

Additionally, the decriminalization of marijuana has become a major issue in many states around the country, including California and Colorado. In Colorado, the recreational consumption of marijuana is legal, but there are certain restrictions. This includes restrictions on how much a person can carry while they are traveling, and it is illegal to consume marijuana in public in Colorado. In other states, cannabis is still classified as a schedule one narcotic, and personal consumption is illegal. If you or a loved one was charged with a drug crime such as drug possession or possession for sale, contact our defense attorney to discuss the case and start working on your defense.