A Definitive Guide to the Controlled Substances Act

Posted on by New Mexico Criminal Law Offices

controlled substances actThe Controlled Substances Act classifies drugs or chemicals that can be manufactured, possessed, and used legally or illegally in the United States. The federal government has created schedules for these substances. And depending on the schedule of drug you are caught with, you may face harsher penalties.

The purpose of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 was to create categories so that states had a better way to impose punishment for crimes committed with these substances. You must realize that something as simple as possessing these substances can result in a criminal conviction – depending on the category and circumstances.

Not all controlled substances are illegal either. Many are available through prescription. But when they are not used for legitimate medical purposes, they become illegal.

Every year the substances are reviewed and updated. Therefore, it essential to understand what the categories are, how they affect you, and what it means to be caught with a substance in a specific category.

What Are the Controlled Substance Categories and How Do They Apply to Albuquerque Drug Crimes?

A control substance typically has a detrimental effect on someone’s health and the community. Therefore, the government regulates these substances and imposes penalties based on the category they fall into.

Depending on the substance, you may face jail or prison time, rehabilitation requirements, and fines.

Currently, there are five categories. The highest of the categories is the most severe while the lower of the categories is not.

Schedule I

Schedule I substances have a high potential for abuse. There is no accepted medical use for these medications in the United States. Therefore, they are unavailable via prescription. There is also no accepted safety of these drugs, even with medical supervision.

Drugs in this category include heroin, marijuana, LSD, peyote, and ecstasy.

A Note about Marijuana

Realize that the federal government does not accept medical use of marijuana. Therefore, it is still classified as a Schedule I under the CSA. However, states can recategorize, and some allow residents to use marijuana for medical use while others allow for recreational use, too.

New Mexico does allow marijuana for medical use. However, you must have a valid prescription and only have in your possession an acceptable medical use amount. You can only have up to 8 ounces of cannabis in a 90-day period. Also, to receive a prescription, you must have a qualifying condition such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Spinal Cord Damage

Other conditions may qualify for the use of medical marijuana. Also, you can legally have up to 16 plants in your home if it is for medical use and not distribution.

What about Recreational Marijuana?

Currently, New Mexico does not allow recreational use of marijuana. However, it is one of the few states to have reduced penalties for possession – if it is for personal use and not distribution. Possession of one or fewer ounces for non-medical use can result in a fine and up to 15 days in jail.

While this sounds minimal, realize that it is easy for the charges to become inflated. Depending on the amount, you may be charged with possession with an intent to distribute. This dramatically increases the fine and jail time.

Schedule II

Schedule II involves narcotics and stimulants with a high potential for abuse. However, they do have a medical purpose that is acceptable in the US. These drugs can be legal or illegal, including methamphetamine, methadone, OxyContin, Percocet, morphine, codeine, and other medications that tend to have a heavy sedative or stimulating characteristic.

Schedule III

Schedule III substances do not carry as high of a risk for addiction or abuse, but there is still some risk. They can also lead to moderate physical and psychological dependence. Therefore, they are still categorized in the third schedule.

Substances under Schedule III include suboxone, ketamine, anabolic steroids, Vicodin, and Tylenol with codeine.

Note that you can only receive these medications with a prescription. If you do not have a valid prescription and you are caught in possession of these substances, you could be charged with a drug crime.

Schedule IV

Schedule IV focuses on substances with a lower potential for abuse. But because they still carry some potential, they are not offered over-the-counter. Medications in this category include Xanax, Soma, Valium, Ativan, Versed, Restoril, and Klonopin.

Schedule V

Schedule V substances carry the least potential for abuse. They have minimal (if any) trace of narcotic and include substances like cough syrup with codeine.

Having a Prescription Is Key

It is technically illegal to possess any substance in any category unless you have a prescription. If you are prescribed and purchased the drug legally, you have not committed a crime possessing these drugs. Naturally, Schedule I is the only category where there is no valid prescription and no reason for possession of these drugs.

When a Prescription Still Leads to a Criminal Charge

A prescription is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. For example, if you have a valid prescription but you sell your medication, then you have committed a crime. Instead, you must possess the medicine, use it legally, and obtain it legally to avoid criminal prosecution.

Arrested for a Drug Crime? Contact an Attorney Immediately

If you have been arrested for possession or a drug crime involving any of the categories mentioned above, you need an attorney. Realize that it is not just the substance that dictates your sentence. The amount and other paraphernalia you are caught with can dramatically increase your sentence for a medication that is on the lower spectrum of schedules.

Therefore, you need to contact an attorney immediately. Speak with someone today at New Mexico Criminal Law Offices and schedule a free consultation at 505-200-2982 or request more information online.