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Illicit Drugs Laws

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What Are Illicit Drugs?

Illicit drugs are substances that have been declared illegal to possess, use, or distribute without authorization under federal and/or state laws. They are usually classified under “schedules”, which rank the drugs in terms of how dangerous they are to individuals and society. 

For example, some illicit drugs may be illegal because they are addictive or are associated with dangerous side effects. Other substances may be declared illicit drugs because they can have negative effects if taken during pregnancy. Thus, illicit drugs are subject to intensive control and monitoring by the government to ensure that the general public is protected from their dangers. 

What Are the Categories of Illicit Drugs?

Illicit drugs are classified into “schedules” according to state laws and federal acts such as the Controlled Substances Act. Most laws categorize illicit drugs into categories which can include:

  • Narcotics: These are drugs that are used to relieve or control pain. They are typically addictive and can induce sleep. Some examples include opium, morphine, codeine, and many synthetic substances.
  • Stimulants: These are drugs that activate or excite the nervous system. They generally produce more energy and are also highly addictive. Examples include cocaine, “crack,” caffeine-based drugs, and amphetamines. 
  • Depressants: These are substances that are designed to reduce anxiety and tension, such as barbiturates. 
  • Hallucinogens: These drugs produce altered states of being and change the way a person perceives reality. Abuse of hallucinogens can cause various psychoses and psychological disorders. Examples include LSD, peyote, and mescaline.
  • Cannabis: These are substances taken directly from, or created from the hemp plant. Examples include marijuana cigarettes, hashish, and synthetic marijuana variants.

Thus, illicit drugs are usually categorized according to how they affect a person’s being, and according to what purpose they are used for. Drug schedules often rank the illicit substances using a comparison of how useful they potentially can be versus how dangerous they might be for society.

What Are Some Penalties Associated with Illicit Drug Crimes?

Illicit drug crimes can often involve very severe legal penalties, such as criminal fines and/or time in jail or prison. Some drug crimes are classified as misdemeanors, but many are also considered federal felony crimes. The severity of the criminal sentence usually depends on several factors, including the type of drug involved, and the amount of drug involved.

Besides criminal consequences, illicit drug charges can have many negative effects on a person’s life, such as:

  • Loss of child custody or visitation rights
  • Loss of the right to own a firearm
  • Loss of other privileges such as the driving privileges

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Illicit Drug Charges?

Illicit drug charges can often lead to very serious criminal charges. Some of these can be classified as felony charges, which are often difficult to expunge or erase from one’s record. Therefore, if you’re facing illicit drug charges, you should contact a criminal lawyer immediately for assistance. Your attorney will be able to explain how drug laws may affect your case, and can provide you with representation during a trial. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 07-16-2014 10:42 AM PDT

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