Federal and state drug crimes forbid the sale, manufacturing, and possession of controlled substances, including heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine, and marijuana.

However, in certain cases, whether the drug is illegal or legal also depends on the ways and why it is used. For instance, marijuana is utilized as a treatment for nausea in cancer patients, barbiturates assists in treating anxiety, and amphetamines treats attention deficit disorder.

The unsupervised and unprescribed usage of controlled substances can prove to be dangerous for individuals and society as a whole. Therefore, these controlled substances are deemed illegal. As per the federal law, illegal drugs possession is a criminal offense.

Lawmakers have been regulating the sale, manufacture, abuse, and usage of the controlled substances for decades.

Classification of Drugs In Schedules

Drugs are referred in legal literature as ‘controlled substances,’ which that the distribution and usage of these substances are governed by the federal or state laws.

There are five categories in which these controlled substances are divided in, called as schedules.

These controlled substances are categorized in five schedules, depending on whether a particular drug is accepted for medical usage currently and the abuse potential of that drug, as well as its possibility of causing addiction.

The five schedules are as follows:

  • Schedule I: Methaqualone, Marijuana, LSD, Heroin
  • Schedule II: Cocaine, PCP, Morphine
  • Schedule III: Hydrocodone Codeine, Steroids, Anabolic, certain Barbiturates
  • Schedule IV: Majority of Benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium
  • Schedule V: Over-the-counter cough medications that includes codeine

All the drugs added in Schedule I currently have no accepted medical usage in the U.S and are considered to have high possibilities of causing addiction and abuse. All the drugs added in Schedule II to V are currently accepted medical usage and are considered to have a lower possibility of causing addiction and abuse.

Types of Federal and State Drug Crimes

State and deferral law cover various types of drug crimes. The state laws might be a bit narrow only if they are not conflicting with the deferral laws. The federal drug law gives out longer sentences, but the state laws might result in probation or shorter sentences.

No matter what type of drug crime is committed, a drug conviction on an individual’s record can result in severe consequences. Following are the different types of drug crimes:


Drug paraphernalia defines any type of equipment that is utilized to inhale, inject, or prepare illegal drugs. It can also refer to equipment utilized for producing or concealing drugs. It is illegal for individuals to export, import, or sell any form of paraphernalia, including syringes, rolling papers, variety of pipes, and bongs.

The main issue, which typically occurs with drug paraphernalia, is that the majority of them are created in a way to appear as if they are utilized for legal purposes. For instance, the majority of bongs comes with labels that clearly mention that it they should be utilized with tobacco only.

However, even when the equipment has such a label, an individual is charged with drug paraphernalia based on the place it was purchased or the way that equipment looks.


The drug possession laws can vary depending on different states as well as the type of drug and its amount. It is illegal as per the state and federal drug laws to be in possession of any type of controlled substances.

If an individual is found in possession of any controlled drug, they might be charged with possession with the intent to distribute or simple possession. Typically, the possession of a drug in larger amounts results in a charge of possession with the intent of distributing or more severe penalties, while possession of drugs in smaller quantities can lead to a charge of simple possession.

An individual might also get charged with constructive possession, which means that the individual didn’t actually have the drugs on them, for instance in their pockets, but they still had control or access to the drugs in the place they were found, for instance, their car or locker.


Drug manufacturing is another type of drug crime under federal and state laws. Manufacturing drugs refers to the growing or making of any of the controlled substances and involves producing, possessing, or growing natural occurring elements for making illegal drugs.

Any individual found taking part in any step in the production process of the controlled substances can be charged. This can include growing marijuana, possessing cannabis seeds, or production of chemical substances in a lab, which can be utilized to create methamphetamine, cocaine, or LSD.


Drug distribution and trafficking laws deem it illegal to import, transport, and sell any illegal controlled substance like cocaine and marijuana. Whether the individual gets charged with trafficking or distribution typically depends on the amount of drug they have in possession instead of whether those drugs were attempting to cross the state lines.

The distribution and trafficking of drugs is a more serious crime as compared to merely found in possession of drugs because it typically includes transporting a larger amount of drugs.


Drug dealing is the selling, providing, or delivering of any controlled substance on a small scale. It is essential to keep in mind that dealing and trafficking are described differently according to different states, as well as under federal drug laws.

Drug dealing typically includes an individual selling a smaller amount of controlled drugs and the penalty for this is not as severe as compared to selling a higher quantity of controlled drugs.

As per the Drug Enforcement Administration, selling controlled substances of 50 grams or less, results in $250,000 fine and imprisonment for up to 5 years. On the other hand, selling controlled substances of 1,000 KG can result in imprisonment of 10 years or more.

Controlled Substances Laws on Federal and State Drug Crimes

The federal government established its own laws to combat the distribution, abuse, and usage of controlled substances. Every state has established its own strategies for the distribution, manufacture, and use of controlled substances.

If you or someone you know has been charged or suspected of any drug crime, it is essential to have an understanding of the intersection of federal and state laws related to controlled substances.

The main difference between federal and state drug crime is consequences severity after being convicted. The federal charges typically have severe penalties and prolonged imprisonment sentences and are mostly considered felony charges. The state charges for a simple possession might be charged as misdemeanors or felonies and has mostly lighter sentences.

In case of a federal crime, trafficking is the most common one, particularly if it is done across state borders; while in case of state crime, possession is the most common one.

An individual might be charged with cultivation, manufacturing, trafficking, or distribution of controlled substances under either state or federal law. Learn more about when drug offense is a federal crime.

Penalties For Drug Crimes

Numerous drug crimes are deemed as felonies and can be charged at least minimum penalties.

For first-time offenders, the minimum sentence ranges from 1 year to 3 years imprisonment. The penalty might also include fines starting from $500 to more. For repeat offenders, the minimum sentence range from 3 years to 15 years imprisonment.

As mentioned before, the drug laws might vary depending on different state, and even local municipalities in some cases. The penalties for controlled substances crime are dependent on various factors, including:

  • The drug quantity or amount
  • The drug classification based on the schedules
  • The drug possession purpose like distribution or personal use

The most severe drug crime includes selling, manufacturing, and/or producing controlled substances.  The intention of distributing drugs can result in making the charges more severe. For instance, the prosecutor may prove the intent of the defendant for distributing controlled substances merely by establishing possession over a specific quantity of drug. This mostly doesn’t need any evidence of actual substance distribution.

In contrast, possession of specific drugs like a smaller quantity of marijuana might be considered like a traffic violation or a misdemeanor in certain states. Such penalties can lead to a fine or probation, with little to no imprisonment. However, the possession of larger quantities of drugs, even when used for personal consumption, can lead to severe charges.

Enhanced Punishments

There are certain states that also enforce enhance penalties or punishments for drug crimes. An enhanced penalty might lead to further harsh criminal penalties and criminal charges, for instance, changing the charge of misdemeanor to a charge of felony.

These enhanced punishment or penalties might apply in the following cases:

  • The controlled drugs were being sold or distributed to minors
  • Minors were utilized for distributing the controlled substances
  • The controlled drugs were delivered or sold close to a school zone or such protected areas

Enhanced punishments might also differ from state to state and may include various factors, apart from the ones mentioned above. Other such enhanced punishments might include alternative penalties mandatory community service or rehabilitation program.

Moreover, in some cases, the convicted individuals might also be asked to forfeit their properties. For instance, if the house of the defendant was utilized for distributing or manufacturing the drugs, then that house would be seized.


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4 Responses to Controlled Substances: Types of Drug Crimes And Penalties

  1. Louis Webber says:

    Thank you for breaking this down so well — such an interesting post! People often commit crimes due to ignorance of the law, though, it’s not an excuse. As such, people need to read posts like this to keep them informed and updated with the governing laws. Keep posting and thanks a lot for sharing this post. Looking forward to reading more of your posts soon. Cheers!
    Louis Webber recently posted…Drug Rehabilitation Programs in NSWMy Profile

  2. OPi Group says:

    It is lovely post. Helpful and informative blog. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  3. James Parker says:

    Thanks for sharing so complete and useful information.
    I have clarified many doubts.
    James Parker recently posted…10 Best Weed Subscription Boxes | Choose Yours!My Profile

  4. Dr. Dawn says:

    Thanks for raising awareness! It’s so important.

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