Many people in Wisconsin have heard of the phrase “controlled substance” in the context of drug crimes. However, they may not know exactly what a controlled substance is. Sometimes, items that may seem innocuous can be considered a controlled substance under the right circumstances.

Not all controlled substances are across-the-board unlawful. To determine if a specific drug is legal, it is important to consult the federal controlled substance schedules found in the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. These will give you an idea of whether the possession of a drug is legal.

First, there are Schedule I drugs. These have no acceptable medical use, are dangerous and have a high propensity for abuse. Some examples include heroin and LSD. Second, there are Schedule II drugs. These have a high propensity for abuse and severe mental or physical dependency. Hydrocodone, OxyContin and Diluadid are examples of Schedule II drugs. While some of these are prescription drugs, possessing them without a lawful prescription is illegal.

Third, there are Schedule III drugs. These are drugs that are less apt than Schedule II drugs to lead to abuse, but could still cause low to moderate physical dependency and high mental dependency. Some examples are Tylenol with Codeine and ketamine. Fourth, there are Schedule IV drugs. These are drugs that do not have as high a potential for abuse as Schedule III drugs and include drugs such as Xanax and Valium. Again, if a person possesses a Schedule III drug or Schedule IV drug without a lawful prescription, they could face drug charges. Finally, there are Schedule V drugs, which contain small amounts of narcotics, such as cough medicine with codeine in it.

So, even possessing cough syrup can be considered possession of a controlled substance if not lawfully purchased. This may seem harsh, but it serves as an example of the far reach of federal drug offenses. Those who believe they have been charged with a drug crime but were legally in possession of the drug at issue will want to take the steps necessary to develop a solid defense strategy.