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Drug Crimes

In 1973, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was created as the central agency for coordinating federal drug enforcement. The DEA was designed to act as the primary agency in fighting the “war on drugs,” thus creating a single administrative position to head federal drug enforcement and doing away with rivalries between government agencies. For more information about the origination of the DEA, refer to the DEA, DEA History Book, 1970-1975, which may be accessed here (last visited Jul. 28, 2005).

The “war on drugs” is still continuing thirty years after the formation of the DEA, and drug control remains a pertinent issue today. For example, the August 8, 2005 issue of Newsweek magazine featured the cover story, America's Most Dangerous Drug, an article on Methamphetamine by David J. Jefferson. (Read the article here; last visited Aug. 1, 2005). Furthermore, a drug-smuggling tunnel was found between Canada and the United States in 2005. This was the first drug-smuggling tunnel between the United States and Canada ever to be found (Tomas Alex Tizon, Suspected Smuggling Tunnel is Closed; The elaborate passage, apparently for drugs, is the first found on the U.S.-Canada border, L.A. Times, Jul. 22, 2005 at A12). Another drug-smuggling tunnel, which measured 800 meters long and 60 feet deep, was discovered near San Diego, Ca. For more information regarding the tunnel, refer to Huge Tunnel Full of Drugs, Sydney Morning Herald, Jan. 29, 2006, by clicking here. In 2005, a U.S. Supreme Court decision found that the federal government has the power to bar states from legalizing medical marijuana. See Gonzales v. Raich, __ U.S. __, 125 S. Ct. 2195 (2005).

Title 21 of the United States Code contains the majority of drug laws, which are highly complicated. Under federal law, each drug is designated as belonging to one of five “schedules.” The DEA considers a variety of factors when judging under which schedule a particular drug should be categorized. See here for the Drug Enforcement Agency, Drugs of Abuse Publication, Chapter 1, (last visited Jul. 29, 2005).  The following is the list of factors the DEA considers when placing a substance in a schedule, as published in the DEA’s Drugs of Abuse Publication:

  1. The drug's actual or relative potential for abuse.
  2. Scientific evidence of the drug's pharmacological effects. The state of knowledge with respect to the effects of a specific drug is, of course, a major consideration. For example, it is vital to know whether or not a drug has a hallucinogenic effect if it is to be controlled due to that effect. The best available knowledge of the pharmacological properties of a drug should be considered.
  3. The state of current scientific knowledge regarding the substance. Criteria (2) and (3) are closely related. However, (2) is primarily concerned with pharmacological effects and (3) deals with all scientific knowledge with respect to the substance.
  4. Its history and current pattern of abuse. To determine whether or not a drug should be controlled, it is important to know the pattern of abuse of that substance, including the socio-economic characteristics of the segments of the population involved in such abuse.
  5. The scope, duration, and significance of abuse. In evaluating existing abuse, the DEA Administrator must know not only the pattern of abuse, but whether the abuse is widespread. In reaching a decision, the Administrator should consider the economics of regulation and enforcement attendant to such a decision. In addition, the Administrator should be aware of the social significance and impact of such a decision upon those people, especially the young, that would be affected by it.
  6. What, if any, risk there is to the public health. If a drug creates dangers to the public health, in addition to or because of its abuse potential, then these dangers must also be considered by the Administrator.
  7. The drug's psychic or physiological dependence liability. There must be an assessment of the extent to which a drug is physically addictive or psychologically habit forming, if such information is known. Whether the substance is an immediate precursor of a substance already controlled. The CSA allows inclusion of immediate precursors on this basis alone into the appropriate schedule and thus safeguards against possibilities of clandestine manufacture. Id.

After the factors are considered, the drug is categorized into one of five schedules. Id. The schedules have the following characteristics.

  • Schedule I
    • The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
    • The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
    • There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.
    • Examples of Schedule I substances include heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana, and methaqualone.
  • Schedule II
    • The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
    • The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions.
    • Abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.
    • Examples of Schedule II substances include morphine, phencyclidine (PCP), cocaine, methadone, and methamphetamine.
  • Schedule III
    • The drug or other substance has less potential for abuse than the drugs or other substances in schedules I and II.
    • The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
    • Abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.
    • Anabolic steroids, codeine and hydrocodone with aspirin or Tylenol?, and some barbiturates are examples of Schedule III substances.
  • Schedule IV
    • The drug or other substance has a low potential for abuse relative to the drugs or other substances in Schedule III.
    • The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
    • Abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to the drugs or other substances in Schedule III.
    • Examples of drugs included in schedule IV are Darvon?, Talwin?, Equanil?, Valium?, and Xanax?.
  • Schedule V
    • The drug or other substance has a low potential for abuse relative to the drugs or other substances in Schedule IV.
    • The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
    • Abuse of the drug or other substances may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to the drugs or other substances in Schedule IV.
    • Cough medicines with codeine are examples of Schedule V drugs. Id.

For a chart of the uses and effects of certain drugs, visit the DEA here (last visited Jul. 29, 2005).

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