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Understanding the Controlled Substances Act

Washington residents might be charged with a variety of drug offenses if they are caught in possession of certain controlled substances. The state's drug laws are modeled on the federal categories that are outlined in the Controlled Substances Act. State drug laws must comply with the federal law's mandates but may be narrower in their focus.

The federal Controlled Substances Act was signed into law by Richard Nixon in 1970. It established five categories of controlled substances from Schedule 1 to Schedule 5. Drugs in Schedule 1 of the CSA are considered to have high potentials for addiction and abuse with no medical benefits. This category includes such drugs as LSD, heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy and marijuana. While marijuana has been legalized in Washington and several other states for medical and recreational use, it is still included in Schedule 1 of the CSA despite studies demonstrating that it does offer some medical benefits.

Schedule 2 of the CSA includes cocaine, morphine and others. Schedule 3 includes such drugs as Vicodin, Marinol and anabolic steroids. Some commonly prescribed drugs, including Ambien, Xanax and Valium are found in Schedule 4. Finally, Schedule 5 include such prescription drugs as certain cough suppressants and Lyrica, among others. The severity of alleged drug crimes may depend on the schedule in which a drug falls. The most severe penalties are served for sales, trafficking and distribution charges related to the drugs found in Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 with the exception of marijuana offenses.

People who are facing drug charges in Washington might benefit by getting legal help as soon as possible. A criminal defense attorney who is able to get started early in a case might be likelier to find information that helps to combat the allegations.

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