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Oct 4, 2022

What is Considered a Controlled Substance in Arizona?

If you get arrested for drug possession, the police report might use the phrases “drug.

What is Considered a Controlled Substance in Arizona?

If you get arrested for drug possession, the police report might use the phrases “drug possession” and “possession of a controlled substance” interchangeably. A controlled substance is not exactly the same thing as an illegal drug; some controlled substances are always illegal, while others have one or more legally accepted medical uses. From the perspective of their effects on the body, some controlled substances are central nervous system stimulants, while others are central nervous system depressants, opioid analgesics, or hallucinogens. 

The word “controlled” refers to the fact that there are legal restrictions on their use. For example, cocaine and amphetamines are stimulants classified as controlled substances, but nicotine and caffeine, which are also stimulants, are not controlled substances. In criminal cases involving possession of controlled substances, context matters. Was it legal for you to possess the drug? If not, did the police have a right to search for it in your possession? If you are facing criminal charges for illegal possession of a controlled substance, contact an Arizona drug crimes lawyer.

The Five Schedules of Drugs According to the Federal Controlled Substances Act

The federal Controlled Substances Act of 1971 classifies drugs as controlled substances if they have enough potential for abuse to warrant legal restrictions on their sale and possession. This means that many controlled substances are prescription drugs that it is only legal to possess if a doctor has prescribed them to you. (In other words, it is legal to take Adderall that was prescribed to you but not to take Adderall that was prescribed to your sister or roommate.)

Controlled substances belong to five categories, known as schedules. Which schedule a controlled substance belongs to is not related to its chemical composition; for example, there is not one schedule for opioids, another for hallucinogens, and so on. Instead, the schedules are based on the drug’s range of legally accepted medical applications and what the government perceives as each drug’s dangers and abuse potential.  These are the five schedules of controlled substances:

  • Schedule I controlled substances are always illegal and have no legally accepted medical uses.  Examples include heroin, LSD, and cannabis.
  • Schedule II controlled substances have at least one medical use, but the risk of overdose and addiction is very high if they are used outside of medically indicated contexts.  Examples include cocaine, fentanyl, oxycodone, and amphetamine.
  • Schedule III controlled substances are prescription drugs with a very high potential for abuse.  Examples include anabolic steroids and ketamine.
  • Schedule IV controlled substances are prescription drugs with a high potential for abuse.  Examples include Xanax and Ambien.
  • Schedule IV controlled substances are drugs with a moderate potential for abuse.  Some of them are available by prescription only, while others can be sold without a prescription but with restrictions and monitoring greater than those associated with ordinary over-the-counter drugs.  Examples include Robitussin and Lyrica.

Arizona Cannabis Laws

You might be surprised to find out that cannabis is a Schedule I controlled substance according to federal law, considering that most states have medical cannabis programs and some, including Arizona, have legalized or decriminalized the sale of cannabis for recreational use or possession of small quantities of cannabis for personal use. Meanwhile, if you get charged with illegal trafficking of cannabis, then the fact that it is a Schedule I controlled substance matters.

You are not alone if you think it is weird that federal law considers cannabis more illegal than fentanyl when fentanyl causes more overdose deaths than cannabis, and no one has ever died from a cannabis overdose unless it was contaminated with fentanyl. Federal laws about cannabis may change in the future.

Drug Policies are Changing

A lot has changed since 1971 when the Controlled Substances Act was first enacted. New drugs are always being developed and considered for FDA approval. If you get caught with a drug that is so new that no laws specifically mention it, you can still get criminal charges. Just as the views of medical researchers and the public about cannabis are changing, a similar change is happening with entheogenic substances (sometimes called hallucinogens) such as psilocybin and ayahuasca.

Contact Singular Law Group About Drug Possession Charges

All defendants in criminal cases have the right to a fair trial and to representation by an attorney.  A criminal defense attorney can help you exercise your rights if you are facing charges for possession of illegal drugs or illegal possession of prescription drugs.  Contact Singular Law Group PLLC in Tempe, Arizona, to set up a consultation.

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