What are the different drug schedules?

Under the law, there are five different schedules of drugs. These schedules are set up based upon two basic criteria. The first is the potential for abuse or addiction of that drug and the second is the current medical use of that drug, meaning whether or not the drug currently has an accepted medical use within the scientific community. Schedule I includes drugs that are highly addictive or highly subject to abuse and do not have a recognized medical use, an example of which would be heroin. Marijuana is also placed in Schedule I even though the potential for addiction seems to be relatively low and there actually are many documented medical uses for marijuana. Nonetheless, the government has maintained over many years that marijuana is a Schedule I drug. An example of a Schedule II substance would be cocaine. Cocaine actually has benzocaine, lidocaine, and other similar drugs in it that do have medical uses. Therefore, even though it is highly addictive, it’s in Schedule II. Other drugs such as Vicodin, Percocet, and Valium will be in different levels based upon how medically useful are they versus how addictive they are. The commonality between them all is that if it is on the schedule, whether it is in Schedule I, II, III, IV, or V, it is a controlled substance. For example, if you buy Advil at a pharmacy, it’s not a controlled substance because you can buy it over the counter. It’s not illegal to possess it even if you can’t document why you have it. In order to have drugs like Vicodin or Valium, however, you would need to have a prescription because you have to have a reason for possessing those drugs. Again, there is no prescription for other drugs such as heroin or cocaine, so there is no valid medical basis for having them. That is how the schedules work. Anything that is listed on a schedule will be a controlled substance such that if you possess it and do not have a valid prescription for it, then it is deemed to be unlawful.

In DC, if someone is caught with a significant amount of cold medicine, would that be considered possession since they have the potential to make meth with it?

That is an interesting question. If the drug itself is not controlled, then possession of any amount of it should not be against the law. However, if, for example, you are possessing a large quantity of one of the root chemicals used in the manufacture of ecstasy, then even if the possession of that root chemical itself is not illegal because it’s not on a schedule, if they can substantiate that the evidence indicates that you are manufacturing an illegal drug, then they can charge you with possession with the intent to manufacture an illegal substance.