California residents may be interested in how the federal government classifies controlled substances. The term 'controlled substance" is loosely defined as a drug that has the potential to cause harm to a person's health. Since 1970, the government has classified controlled substances by placing each into one of five numbered categories. Technically it is illegal for a person to possess any drug on any of the five classification schedules, but many of the drugs are available by prescription from a doctor, and having a valid prescription for a drug generally exempts people from being prosecuted.
Schedule I drugs are considered to have a high potential for dependency or abuse and are not known to have any medical value. Though much controversy surrounds that issue as it relates to marijuana, the federal government still classifies it as a Schedule I drug. Other Schedule I drugs include ecstasy, heroin, LSD and peyote. Some Schedule II drugs are available by medical prescription, but all drugs on this schedule have high potential for dependency. These drugs include morphine, opium, codeine, amphetamine and methamphetamine.
Schedule III drugs have less potential for dependency than drugs on the first two schedules, while Schedule IV drugs have some, but less potential for dependency than Schedule III drugs. Schedule III includes prescription painkillers like Vicodin and Tylenol with Codeine, along with anabolic steroids. Schedule IV includes the anti-anxiety medications Xanax and Klonopin, as well Halcion, Restoril, Soma Valium and Versed. Schedule V includes drugs that have only limited amounts of narcotics. Cough syrups with codeine fall into this category.
Penalties for drug possession vary depending on which drug is involved and the quantity. Possession of Schedule I or Schedule II drugs usually carries stiffer penalties than possession of drugs on any of the other three schedules.