The Controlled Substances Act (CSA), is a consolidation of federal laws regulating the manufacture and distribution of narcotics, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, anabolic steroids, and chemicals used in the illicit production of controlled substances.

Under the CSA, all substances regulated under existing federal law are placed into one of five categories, referred to as "schedules". Placement is based upon the substance's medicinal value, harmfulness, and potential for abuse or addiction. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous, and have no recognized medical use. Schedule V drugs are the least dangerous drugs.

  • Schedule I drugs have a high tendency for abuse and have no accepted medical use. They are not available at pharmacies or by prescription. They include Marijuana, Heroin, Ecstasy, LSD, and GHB.
  • Schedule II drugs have a high tendency for abuse, may have an accepted medical use, and can produce dependency or addiction. They may be available with a prescription by a physician, but not all pharmacies may carry them, and they are subject to more stringent recordkeeping and storage procedures than drugs in Schedules III and IV. They include Cocaine, Opium, Morphine, Fentanyl, Amphetamines, and Methamphetamines.
  • Schedule III drugs have a lower potential for abuse or addiction, and have a currently accepted medical use.  They may be available with a prescription, but not all pharmacies may carry them. Schedule III drugs include Anabolic steroids, Codeine, Ketamine, Hydrocodone with Aspirin, and Hydrocodone with Acetaminophen.
  • Schedule IV drugs have a low potential for abuse, have a currently accepted medical use, and have a low chance for addiction or limited addictive properties. These drugs may be available with a prescription, but not all pharmacies may carry them. Schedule IV drugs include Valium, Xanax, Phenobarbital, and Rohypnol (commonly known as the "date rape" drug).
  • Schedule V drugs have a lower chance of abuse than Schedule IV drugs, have a currently accepted medical use, and lesser chance of side effects or dependence compared to Schedule IV drugs. They include cough suppressants with Codeine. Schedule V drugs are regulated but generally do not require a prescription.

How Does the CSA Regulate Drug Use?

The CSA provides penalties for unlawful manufacturing, distribution, and dispensing of controlled substances. Penalties are basically determined by the schedule of the drug or other substance, and sometimes are specified by drug name, as in the case of marijuana. Penalties under the Act can apply to both sellers and users of drugs. Civil as well as criminal penalties can be imposed under the CSA.

What Is Personal Use?

Under the CSA, the government can impose a civil fine on individuals possessing only a small quantity of a drug - an amount for personal use, and not for sale to others. This allows the government to punish the offender without giving the offender a criminal record, and without conducting a full scale criminal investigation.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you have been charged with a drug crime under the Controlled Substances Act, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately. A lawyer can help you to understand your rights under the law, and can explain any defenses that may be available to you.