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DEA Drug Scheduling 101

February 28, 2017


When it comes to United States federal drug classifications, one would need to dig deep into the Controlled Substances Act as well as 21 U.S.C. §802(32)(A), and then dig through 21 U.S.C. §813 for more. That's a tedious and time consuming process, so we're going to save you the trouble!


There's only 5 different categories or schedules that a substance can be classified in, and the scheduling of some may shock you! While some cannabis enthusiasts may not care what the federal government thinks about their habit, it is important to educate ourselves on these regulatory structures if we want to change them. 

First off, let's clarify that the DEA and the U.S. federal government does not just use these classifications or schedules for "drugs" but also for "substances, and certain chemicals used to make drugs". The five schedules range from schedule I to schedule V, and are dependent on the potential for addiction and abuse as well as "acceptable medical use".


As simple as that methodology may sound, it's far more complex than that if somehow cannabis ranks as being more dangerous than cocaine. No, it's not a typo - cannabis is deemed to be a more addictive and less accepted medically than cocaine by the U.S. federal government. As you read through these five categories, you'll think some of it is backwards. Unfortunately, these are the classifications for now until we change them.


Schedule I 



According to the DEA, "Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse."  Some of the government's listed examples of Schedule I substances are: heroin, LSD a.k.a. acid, peyote, ecstasy, and last but not least - you guessed it - marijuana. You might be a little baked right now, but you read that correctly! Marijuana is classified right alongside heroin and acid. 


Schedule II



According to the DEA, "Schedule II drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous." Some of the U.S. government's listed examples of Schedule II substances are: heroin's gateway drugs Vicodin and OxyContin, as well as commonly known Adderall, Ritalin, cocaine and methamphetamine. Wait! Marijuana is considered to be more dangerous and addictive than those drugs!? We'll agree to disagree with the federal government on that. They must have been high when they decided. 


Schedule III



According to the DEA, "Schedule III drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence." Some of the federal government's given examples of Schedule III drugs are: Tylenol with codeine (another opiate), ketamine a.k.a. the horse tranquilizer commonly abused by ravers, and also 'roids (sorry bodybuilders). 


Schedule IV


 (Photo Credit - Dean812 via Flickr)


According to the DEA, "Schedule IV drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence." Some of the government's ridiculous examples of Schedule IV drugs  include : Xanax, Valium, and Ambien (a sleeping medication easily replaced by a nice indica strain). No one has ever heard of someone who abused or depended on Xanax, right? 


Schedule V


 (Photo Credit - daddyboskeazy via Flickr)


Last but not least, we have Schedule V. According to the DEA, "Schedule V drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with lower potential for abuse than Schedule IV and consist of preparations containing limited quantities of certain narcotics. Schedule V drugs are generally used for antidiarrheal, antitussive, and analgesic purposes." One well known example of a Schedule V drug is cough syrup with codeine in it. You know that cough syrup that Lil' Wayne always had in his cup? That's the stuff!




I hope this was a useful and slightly amusing guide to the United States' federal drug classifications. Cocaine, Xanax, Codeine cough syrup and more are all considered to be less addictive than cannabis, while also having the nerve to say marijuana has "no currently accepted medical use". Now go call or write your representative to tell them how crazy this stuff is! If some of those other drugs have widely accepted medical uses, marijuana must have super healing powers (it actually does though). 

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