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Q: I am concerned with drug laws. I do not understand the whole scheduling thing, like cocaine is schedule two and cannabis is schedule one? What are the penalties for getting caught with narcotics, manufactoring them, or coming up positive with a drug test? I.E...I get caught with heroin or cocaine, what happens to me?

A: Drug laws in the United States (and most other countries) are very complex. In the US this is made worse by the fact that you also have to consider state laws, which can be different from federal law. If a person is caught with an illegal substance, they can either be prosecuted under the laws of the state where they are caught, or by federal authorities. Federal cases are generally only prosecuted when larger quantities are involved, or when special circumstances are involved. Simple possession cases are almost never prosecuted federally.

The federal scheduling system is mirrored very closely in most states. This means that most (but not all) drugs which are illegal federally are also illegal under each state's laws. Likewise, a few drugs are illegal in some states which are not illegal federally, but as a general rule, the federal schedules are a good example of what's illegal in the states as well.

The Schedules try to classify drugs by two criteria: how useful is it for medicine, and how much abuse potential does it have? In theory, Schedule I drugs have high abuse potential and no medical use. The other 4 schedules do have accepted medical use, but have different abuse potentials, with Schedule II drugs having the highest abuse potential and Schedule V the lowest. Penalties are worst for Schedule I drugs and lightest for Schedule V.

What the penalties are depends on many factors, such as how much of a substance was involved, what kind of record you have, where you were caught, etc. Federal penalties are based on a complex formula set out in the US Sentencing Commission Guidelines. These guidelines specify what quantities of a drug are equivalent to a specific quantity of another drug and set the level of punishment based on these 'equivalency tables'. There are then many modifiers to the calculation including prior arrests, whether anyone was hurt, whether the person was selling, whether weapons were involved, etc.

Unfortunately this is about as clear an answer as we can give. "It depends on the exact situation." For more on drug laws, browse through the drug law vault or talk to a lawyer.

Asked By : Danielle
Answered By : murple
Published Date : 2 / 8 / 2001
Last Edited Date : 2 / 8 / 2001
Question ID : 2170

Categories: [ Law ]

Ask Erowid v1.7 - Jul, 2005

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