Home Health & Wellness 5 Things You Should Know About Drug Possession Laws Around the USA

5 Things You Should Know About Drug Possession Laws Around the USA

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Despite their negative effects, millions of Americans use drugs every single day, typically to cope with stress, escape a traumatic experience, or self-medicate a mental illness. Regardless of why controlled dangerous substances (CDS) are used, addiction may result and ruin lives. 

While the best-case scenario involves the person getting help and staying away from these substances, drug users are often locked up instead. This may encourage an addict to use while in prison, as the primary reason for their addiction won’t be addressed or accounted for.

Knowing the ins and outs of drug possession laws can help vulnerable people stay safe from police violence. It’s in your best interest to consult a lawyer if you’re arrested on drug charges.

What counts as a controlled dangerous substance (CDS)?

A controlled dangerous substance (CDS) is any drug classified by the federal government for having a “higher-than-average potential for abuse or addiction”. While this is the most crucial factor when classifying a CDS, the department of health also considers the following criteria:

  • How the drug affects the human body
  • The scientific consensus about the drug
  • Historical or documented patterns of abuse
  • Impact on public/citizen health
  • How widespread the drug is

Controlled dangerous substances are further broken down into categories. These range from Schedule I to Schedule V, with Schedule I being the most controlled. Many Schedule I drugs have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. It’s important to note that many Schedule I drugs, including marijuana, don’t actually follow CDS criteria.

Hiring the right lawyer for a CDS offense can make a huge difference when it comes to a drug possession charge. Many attorneys will work on a contingency fee, meaning you won’t have to pay them until you win your case. For this reason, contingency lawyers fight hard for your case.

5 Things you should know about US drug possession laws

You may be surprised to learn that drug possession laws vary significantly from state to state in the US. 

Here’s what you need to know about drug possession laws in the US:

  • Penalties for drug possession. The drug possession penalties vary depending on the type of drug, the amount, and the location of the crime. In general, penalties range from a fine and probation to years in prison. In some states, possession of certain drugs may even be decriminalized, like in the case of marijuana.
  • Federal vs state laws. Drug laws are primarily regulated by the state, but certain federal laws also apply. It’s essential to know the difference between federal and state laws when it comes to drug possession – both in terms of the penalties and the charges. Speak to a criminal attorney if you’re not sure.
  • Prescription drug possession. Prescription drug possession is regulated differently than other drugs. Depending on the state, you may be able to possess a certain amount of prescription drugs without penalty. However, possessing a prescription drug without a valid prescription is still considered a criminal offense.
  • Workplace drug laws. Some states implemented “drug-free workplace” laws, which require employers to maintain drug-free workplaces. They may provide certain protections for employers if an employee is found to be in possession of drugs on company property. Drug testing may also be permitted.
  • Possession vs trafficking. Knowing the difference between possession and trafficking could save you from serving jail time. Possession is defined as having a drug for personal use, while trafficking is the sale or distribution of drugs. Penalties for trafficking are much more severe than simple possession. 

Final thoughts

Knowing the drug possession laws in your state is essential for anyone living in the US. Make sure to stay up to date on the latest drug laws and understand the difference between federal and state laws. This will help ensure you stay compliant in your jurisdiction.


Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle. 

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