mainstream facts



Congress has found and declared that many existing drugs have a useful and legitimate medical purpose, necessary to maintain the health and general welfare of the American people. However, the illegal importation, manufacture, distribution, possession and improper use of these controlled substances have an equally substantial and detrimental effect on those same citizens.

Further, intra and interstate transportation of these substances cannot be differentiated and therefore is not feasible to distinguish, in terms of controls. The effective control of these substances and their legal and illegal distribution is essential, especially as the United States is party to the Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs, in addition to various other international conventions designed to establish effective control over the international and domestic traffic in controlled substances.


Dangers of Non-Medical Use

Additionally, Congress found the danger involved in the manufacture, distribution, and use of certain psychotropic substances for nonscientific and nonmedical purposes, which strictly undermine the regulated legitimate uses of these same substances.


An International Affair

As such, the United States has joined various countries in executing the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, which established international order over the manufacture, distribution, transfer, and use of certain psychotropic substances.

To accomplish both of these goals, Congress established the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.). As part of this process, Congress was intent to insure that:

  • The availability of psychotropic substances to manufacturers, distributors, dispensers, and researchers for useful and legitimate medical and scientific purposes will not be unduly restricted;
  • Nothing in the Convention will interfere with bona fide research activities; and
  • Nothing in the Convention will interfere with ethical medical practice in this country as determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services on the basis of a consensus of the views of the American medical and scientific community.


Authority to Decide

The Attorney General of the United States (“AG”) shall apply the provisions of the Controlled Substance Act to the controlled substances listed in the schedules or any other drug or substance added. The AG has the right to add, reschedule or remove any drug or substance from the schedules if he finds that the drug or substance does not meet the requirements for inclusion in its particular or any schedule.

In evaluating the scheduling of a substance, the AG must initiate proceedings, gather necessary data, request from the Secretary of Health and Human Services a scientific and medical evaluation, the Secretary’s recommendations, and take into consideration various factors.


Schedule I Substances

Through this Act, there were five schedules of controlled substances established, known as schedules I, II, III, IV, and V.  Placement of a drug or substance in schedule I means that the drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse, it has 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.

Currently, among schedule I substances are various opiates and opiate derivatives, to include heroin; hallucinogenic substances, to include marijuana, mescaline, peyote and all tetrahydrocannabinols. It should be noted that opium poppy, cocaine and methamphetamine are in schedule II, which also defines the drug or substance as having a high potential for abuse, yet it has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, although abuse of the drug may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.


Mandatory Registration

Every person who manufactures or distributes or proposes to engage in the manufacture or distribution of any controlled substance must obtain annually a registration issued by the AG to do so. Additionally, every person who dispenses or proposes to dispense any controlled substance shall obtain the same. Only such persons who are registered may manufacture, distribute, or dispense controlled substances, to the extent they are authorized.


Continued Federal Compliance

Substances must be at least schedule II substances to be legally prescribed by a practitioner and dispensed by a pharmacist, which is why states choose to allow “recommendations” for cannabis by a licensed physician record, rather than as prescriptions. The Federal Government does not yet authorize the prescription of cannabis, as it remains illegal to do so as a schedule I substance.