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What is the scheduling system for controlled substances?

You often hear about the "war on drugs" and "drug crime" but rarely do everyday people think about a term that is used in relation to these things and that is very important to the proceedings: controlled substance. This phrase is defined as any illegal drug that can have a detrimental impact on a person's health or welfare. Essentially, controlled substance laws -- such as the federal policy called the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 -- are in place to protect people from themselves. Of course, this "protection" often leaves people reeling from the serious consequences associated with their crime.

When it comes to controlled substances, it is the scheduling system that determines how severe the person's crime is. There are five categories, running from one (most severe) to five (least severe). But what do they mean?

Schedule I substances are your typical drugs that you hear about all the time. Substances such as marijuana and heroin are classified as Schedule I substances.

Schedule II substances can have cause major psychological or physical dependency. Substances such as OxyContin, Percocet and morphine are considered Schedule II substances.

From there, the scheduling gets a bit murky, but in general Schedule III substances have less severe dependency consequences for the user (though such consequences are still present). Vicodin and Codeine are examples of Schedule III. Schedule IV are substances such as Xanax and Valium. Schedule V substances are usually small quantities of preparatory substances that could be used to make something else. Cough syrups are common Schedule V substances.

As you can see, a lot of these substances could have legitimate medical uses. If you have proper clearance from a medical professional, then possessing these substances may not lead to a controlled substance violation. If you do get hit with a controlled substance charge, there are many state and federal laws. This means that every case is a bit unique and that the defendant needs legal help to ensure that his or her case is being properly handled.

Source: FindLaw, "What is a Controlled Substance?," Accessed April 28, 2015

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