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How are drugs scheduled?

Back in December we discussed how the penalties for a federal drug offense are often dependent upon the drug that was involved and how it fits into the federal drug schedule. This is highly important information for those facing drug charges, but it might also be helpful to understand why a drug is scheduled the way it is. This way, an accused individual is able to go into his or her legal defense fully informed of what he or she is up against.

According to federal law, drugs are classified into five classes or schedules. Many factors come into play when determining a drug's schedule. However, key amongst these factors are the abuse rate, potential for dependency, the acceptability of use for medical purposes and the dangers posed by the drug. Therefore, those drugs that pose a high risk of abuse and the potential for extreme dependency may be classified in the highest schedule, Schedule I. Schedule V drugs are those that pose the least risk of abuse.

Schedule I drugs have no acceptable medical use and pose a significant risk for dependency. Amongst these drugs are heroin, marijuana, ecstasy, peyote and LSD. Criminal offenses involving these drugs will carry the heaviest penalties. Schedule V drugs, on the other hand, include codeine and Lyrica. Offenses involving these drugs are still quite serious, but not nearly as much as those involving higher schedule drugs.

It is important to note that the list of scheduled drugs provided by the government is non-exhaustive. In fact, if a substance is altered to be similar to a scheduled drug and is intended for human consumption, then it may be treated as a scheduled narcotic. So, as can be seen, the drug scheduling system can be a little tricky to understand. Therefore, those accused of a federal offense like drug trafficking, may want to consider their legal options to defend themselves.

Source: Drug Enforcement Agency, "Drug Schedules," accessed on Apr. 25, 2015

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