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Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970

Recreational drug use became relatively common in the U.S. in the late 1960s. To combat the illegal drug use, Congress passed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act in 1970. The drug laws prior to this Act weren’t adequate to address, for example, the illegal use of legally manufactured drugs, such as amphetamines and barbiturates. 

The Act consists of two main parts, Title II and Title III. In addition, to classifying and outlawing certain drugs, the Act was also created to research drug abuse and provide treatment. Changes in drug use in the U.S. after 1970 have at times resulted in amendments to the Act. The Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA, is the agency of the federal government responsible for enforcing controlled substance laws, including the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevent and Control Act.

Title II - Controlled Substances Act

An important part of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act is the Title II section, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The CSA provides the legal basis for the government's war on drugs. This law consolidated laws on manufacturing and distributing drugs of all kinds, including narcotics, hallucinogens, steroids, chemicals when used to make controlled substances, etc.

The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention & Control Act as part of the Controlled Substances Act created a "drug schedule" classifying drugs into five categories or schedules based on the medical use and potential for drug abuse or dependence:

  • Schedule I drugs: These drugs are the most dangerous. They don’t have mainstream accepted medical uses and have a high potential for abuse. These drugs include heroin, LSD, marijuana, ecstasy, and peyote. Note that marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug by federal law even though Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana.
  • Schedule II drugs: These drugs have a high potential for abuse and are also considered dangerous. Examples include cocaine, meth, methadone, Demerol, OxyContin, Adderall, and Ritalin.
  • Schedule III drugs: These drugs have a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. This schedule includes Vicodin, Tylenol with codeine, ketamine, anabolic steroids, and testosterone.
  • Schedule IV drugs: These drugs have a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence, and include Xanax, Soma, Darvon, Darvocet, Valium, Ativan, and Ambien.
  • Schedule V drugs: These drugs have the least potential for abuse and contain limited quantities of certain narcotics. These medications are usually used for antidiarrheal, antitussive, and analgesic purposes and may not require a prescription. Examples include cough syrups with limited amounts of codeine, Robitussin AC, Lomotil, Motofen, Lyrica, Parepectolin, etc.

The Act created a way to add and remove from control or change the schedule category of substances. A substance doesn’t need to be listed as a controlled substance to be treated as one for criminal prosecution. An analogous substance intended for human use that’s substantially similar to a Schedule I or Schedule II drug and isn’t approved as medication in the U.S. is considered a controlled substance analogue and can still be illegal. For more information, see FindLaw's article on the Controlled Substances Act.

Title III - Importation and Exportation, Criminal Forfeiture, and Drug Law Amendments

The less referenced part of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act is Title III, which changed the law and penalties regarding importation and exportation of controlled substances and criminal forfeiture. Forfeiture is when the government confiscates property involved with the crime, including drug crimes. This section also provided the necessary legal information for the transitional period and when the Act was effective.

If you’ve been contacted by law enforcement regarding a controlled substance, you should contact a qualified criminal defense attorney

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