How Do Drug Laws Vary State to State?

  • 01/11/2022, 09:31 AM

Drug crimes and laws have gotten a great deal of attention over the past few years. There are federal laws and laws in every state that prohibit the possession, manufacturer, and sale of controlled substances. Find out more about the laws and how they vary from state to state.

What are Federal Drug Laws?

Drugs make national news on a regular basis. Federal drug laws are in place to control every part of the manufacturing, possession, and distribution of legal and illegal drugs. State and local law enforcement collaborate with federal agencies to ensure there are effective and robust controls of substances that could be dangerous to anyone. Federal agencies focus on trafficking, while state agencies are the ones that make drug offense arrests. Most of these arrests are for drug possession.

Another difference between the state and federal laws is based on the severity of the punishment once someone has been convicted. Federal charges have longer sentences and harsher penalties. State charges, especially simple possession, can be a felony or misdemeanor. Simple possession means having the drug but with no intent to distribute it.

State Drug Laws

Every state has its own drug laws. Drug busts often make national news. The laws in each state tend to be drastically different from each other. Each state has its own statutory authorities, scheduling bodies, and controlled substance acts.

Some examples of how the consequences vary by the state include:

  • Colorado can charge you for driving under the influence (DUI) without evidence of impaired driving.
  • Massachusetts can punish you with a $100 fine for possession of an ounce (18 grams) or marijuana.

Difference Between Legal and Illegal Drugs

The difference between legal and illegal drugs depends on how it is being used and for what. Most drugs have legal and illegal uses. For example, amphetamines can be used for attention deficit disorder. Marijuana helps to eliminate symptoms related to cancer treatment. In fact, cannabis is Maryland's third best-selling product, just behind potatoes and lobsters. However, when these medications are used unsupervised and unprescribed, that can be dangerous. As a result, the law has regulations to control the use, abuse, manufacture, and sale of illegal drugs.

Controlled Substances

While each state has its own regulations and laws with it comes to drugs, the Controlled Substances Act allows federal organizations to enforce their laws in any jurisdiction or state. Controlled substances often make national news because of the growing addiction to prescription drugs. There was a significant increase in the percentage (from 22.4% to 25%) of adults taking prescription drugs or receiving counseling for mental health from August 2020, through December 2020.

When a drug is considered controlled by state or federal governments, it means the government controls the use and distribution of the substance. These substances are classified at different schedules under state or federal laws. There are five schedules into which the substances are divided. Schedule I drugs have no acceptable medical use for treatment in the U.S. Schedule II - V has some medical use and may be prescribed, administered, and dispensed for those uses. As a result, there is a potential for drug abuse and dependency.

  • Schedule I drugs are LSD, Marijuana, Heroin, Methaqualone.
  • Schedule II drugs are Morphine, PCP, Cocaine.
  • Schedule III drugs are Codeine, Hydrocodone, Anabolic Steroids, and some Barbiturates.
  • Schedule IV drugs are Valium and Xanax, which are Benzodiazepines.
  • Schedule V drugs are cough medicines with codeine that are over the counter.

This is only a small amount of information about how drug laws vary from state to state and categorized drugs. For more information on your local laws, make sure you do proper research.




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