Many Illinois residents are likely unaware of the history of drug laws in the United States. The Controlled Substances Act, signed by President Richard Nixon in 1970, was an attempt to simplify what had been a complex system of over 200 laws. With the CSA in place, drugs were classified under five different schedules. This classification meant that adding or removing drugs from a schedule did not have to involve changing a law. States also have an easier time creating criminal statutes since they can simply refer to drugs by schedule number instead of name.
The schedules range in severity from 1 to 5 with Schedule 1 drugs being those that are considered the most harmful and with no medical benefit. Marijuana is included as a Schedule 1 drug despite studies examining its medical benefit along with heroin, ecstasy and LSD. Schedule 2 drugs include morphine and cocaine. Vicodin and anabolic steroids are both considered Schedule 3 drugs. Xanax, Ambien and Valium are all Schedule 4 while Lyrica and cough suppressants are Schedule 5.
Penalties are generally higher if the drug is in one of the schedules that is considered more dangerous. The Drug Enforcement Agency may change a drug’s schedule or add or remove a drug altogether.
Some people may be unaware that certain drugs, such as marijuana, are classified as being dangerous. However, they should not assume that just because a drug is Schedule 4 or 5 that there are no severe consequences related to drug charges. These types of charges can be serious at any level. In addition to legal sanctions, people might also face other penalties such as losing access to student financial aid. They may want to discuss their options, including plea bargaining, with a criminal defense attorney.