The United States government uses a system known as scheduling to regulate the usage of certain drugs and to establish punishments for the use of illegal substances. The schedule system works by classifying different substances according to their perceived potential for abuse and addiction, as well as their usefulness in approved medical contexts.
Some of the most powerful and dangerous drugs currently available have accepted medical uses in certain contexts. Some other substances are less dangerous but do not have any accepted medical use that is currently recognized by the federal government. This results in some degree of debate over the way that drugs are scheduled in this system.
What Are Scheduled Drugs?
A scheduled drug is any drug that has been recognized and categorized by the federal government. This type of classification is based on how likely the drug is to be used in abusive or addictive contexts and whether or not the drug has any accepted medical use.
There are five schedule levels: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Level 5 lists drugs that are believed to have the lowest possible potential for abuse and addiction and Level 1 lists drugs that are believed to be highly dangerous and have no accepted medical use.
Level 1 lists drugs like heroin, LSD and marijuana. Level 2 lists drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine, morphine and PCP.
The penalties for drug crimes involving scheduled substances are based on where the drug falls on the schedule. For example, possession of a schedule 1 substance may be penalized more harshly than possession of a similar amount of a schedule 3 substance.
The schedule system is a federal guideline and it does not always mesh with state law. For example, in recent years, many states have begun lowering the penalties for marijuana possession and cultivation for medical purposes. This is in direct contradiction of the federal government’s stance that marijuana has no accepted medical use.
Defense strategies in drug cases often consist of:
- Pleas to lesser offenses
- Attempted enrollment in drug diversion programs
- Agreement to attend drug counseling and/or rehab