Federal Drug Crime Schedules

The majority of drug laws are contained in Title 21 of the United States Code. Under federal law, each drug is designated as belonging to one of five “schedules.” There are a variety of factors considered when the DEA determines under which schedule a particular drug should be categorized. According to the DEA, some of the factors considered include: the drug’s actual or relative potential for abuse, scientific evidence of the drug’s pharmacological effects, the state of current scientific knowledge regarding the substance, the drug’s history and current pattern of abuse, the scope, duration, and significance of abuse, any risk there is to the public health, and the drug’s psychic or physiological dependence liability.

After considering all the factors, the drug is then categorized into one of the five schedules. The schedules are defined as stated below:

Schedule I

  • The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
  • The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
  • There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.
  • Schedule I drugs include marijuana and heroin.

Schedule II

  • The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
  • The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions.
  • Abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.
  • Schedule II drugs include morphine and cocaine.

Schedule III

  • The drug or other substance has less potential for abuse than the drugs or other substances in schedules I and II.
  • The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
  • Abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.

Schedule IV

  • The drug or other substance has a low potential for abuse relative to the drugs or other substances in Schedule III.
  • The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
  • Abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to the drugs or other substances in Schedule III.

Schedule V

  • The drug or other substance has a low potential for abuse relative to the drugs or other substances in Schedule IV.
  • The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
  • Abuse of the drug or other substances may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to the drugs or other substances in Schedule IV.

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Eisner Gorin LLP, Los Angeles Federal Criminal Defense Attorney