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What is the Federal Drug Schedule?

Definition of Controlled Substance Schedules

The drugs and other substances that are considered controlled substances under the CSA are divided into five schedules. A listing of the substances and their schedules is found in the DEA regulations, 21 C.F.R. Sections 1308.11 through 1308.15. A controlled substance is placed in its respective schedule based on whether it has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and its relative abuse potential and likelihood of causing dependence. Some examples of controlled substances in each schedule are outlined below.

NOTE: Drugs listed in schedule I have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and, therefore, may not be prescribed, administered, or dispensed for medical use. In contrast, drugs listed in schedules II-V have some accepted medical use and may be prescribed, administered, or dispensed for medical use.

Schedule I Controlled Substances

Substances in this schedule have a high potential for abuse, have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

Some examples of substances listed in schedule I are: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), peyote, methaqualone, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (“ecstasy”).

Schedule II Controlled Substances

Substances in this schedule have a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

Examples of single entity schedule II narcotics include morphine and opium. Other schedule II narcotic substances and their common name brand products include: hydromorphone (Dilaudid®), methadone (Dolophine®), meperidine (Demerol®), oxycodone (OxyContin®), and fentanyl (Sublimaze® or Duragesic®).

Examples of schedule II stimulants include: amphetamine (Dexedrine®, Adderall®), methamphetamine (Desoxyn®), and methylphenidate (Ritalin®). Other schedule II substances include: cocaine, amobarbital, glutethimide, and pentobarbital.

Schedule III Controlled Substances

Substances in this schedule have a potential for abuse less than substances in schedules I or II and abuse may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.

Examples of schedule III narcotics include combination products containing less than 15 milligrams of hydrocodone per dosage unit (Vicodin®) and products containing not more than 90 milligrams of codeine per dosage unit (Tylenol with codeine®). Also included are buprenorphine products (Suboxone® and Subutex®) used to treat opioid addiction.
Examples of schedule III non-narcotics include benzphetamine (Didrex®), phendimetrazine, ketamine, and anabolic steroids such as oxandrolone (Oxandrin®).

Schedule IV Controlled Substances

Substances in this schedule have a low potential for abuse relative to substances in schedule III.

An example of a schedule IV narcotic is propoxyphene (Darvon® and Darvocet-N 100®).

Other schedule IV substances include: alprazolam (Xanax®), clonazepam (Klonopin®), clorazepate (Tranxene®), diazepam (Valium®), lorazepam (Ativan®), midazolam (Versed®), temazepam (Restoril®), and triazolam (Halcion®).

Schedule V Controlled Substances

Substances in this schedule have a low potential for abuse relative to substances listed in schedule IV and consist primarily of preparations containing limited quantities of certain narcotics. These are generally used for antitussive, antidiarrheal, and analgesic purposes.

Examples include cough preparations containing not more than 200 milligrams of codeine per 100 milliliters or per 100 grams (Robitussin AC® and Phenergan with Codeine®).

Source: Drug Enforcement Administration

John Entwistle notes: So why the picture of President Nixon? Because he was the one who decided that cannabis should be in Schedule I. Those opposed to rescheduling say that the decision should be based on science but they ignore the fact that the original decision was based on politics not science. Likewise, the decision not to reschedule is a political (and economic) one.