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The Interplay Of State And Federal Drug Laws

The Interplay Of State And Federal Drug Laws

Under federal law, possessing, manufacturing, distributing and abusing controlled substances is illegal, as is the misuse of prescription drugs. Even though New York State has loosened many of its drug laws, some offenses still carry stiff penalties. Drug possession under most conditions is a serious offense that can result in felony charges and jail time — casting a shadow over your reputation and employment opportunities.

Controlled substance schedules and penalties

Drugs, substances and some chemicals used to make drugs are classified by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency into five categories or schedules . The drugs with the highest potential for dependency carry the stiffest penalties and are in included in Schedule I and II categories, as follows:

  • Schedule I: Heroin, LSD, marijuana, ecstasy, methaqualone and peyote
  • Schedule II: Cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, Dilaudid, Demerol, oxycodone, fentanyl, Dexedrine, Adderall and Ritalin

Schedule III, IV and V drugs have commercial applications with a high potential for abuse, and include:

  • Schedule III: Vicodin, Tylenol with codeine, ketamine, anabolic steroids, testosterone and others
  • Schedule IV:  Xanax, Soma, Darvon, Darvocet, Valium, Activan, Talwin, Ambien and others
  • Schedule V: Drugs that are generally used for antidiarrheal, antitussive and analgesic purposes

Most states follow federal schedule guidelines. Under federal narcotics laws, drug charges can carry minimum mandatory sentences. The severity of penalties depends on the kind and weight of the drug and whether the defendant was an organizer, manager or minor or minimal participant. Trafficking drugs across state lines is a federal offense.

While the possession of a small amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor in New York State, the possession or sale of narcotics entails long sentences and significant fines. For example, the possession of two ounces of methamphetamine is considered a Class A felony with a potential three-year jail sentence and a $50,000 fine. If the sale of drugs, prior offenses, or minors were involved, the consequences are more severe. The court can also mandate community service and drug counseling.

If you are facing a state or federal drug charge, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights and your freedom. A knowledgeable attorney understands the complex interaction of state and federal drug laws and can work to get your charges reduced or, if possible, dropped altogether.

Contact New York attorneys who will protect your best interests


The New York City criminal defense attorneys at Abramson & Monk represent clients from arraignment through trial. Our attorneys are skilled negotiators and litigators who handle criminal cases involving drug crimes at all levels of New York’s state and federal courts. Call us today at 212.226.7098 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation.