Understanding Florida’s drug possession laws

  • On behalf of Mike G Law posted in on Friday, September 23, 2016

From the college student caught with a small bag of marijuana in his pocket to the business executive lacking a valid prescription for the few pills in her car, drug possession arrests happen with stunning regularity here in Tampa and across the state of Florida.

When people’s mistakes in judgment and/or addiction issues put them in this position, they naturally want to know from the outset what state law calls for, particularly as it relates to the potential penalties for a drug possession conviction.

While this is certainly understandable, any discussion of the penalties for possession charges must be prefaced by an examination of how Florida classifies drugs or, to be more precise, controlled dangerous substances.

In general, state law places controlled dangerous substances — or CDS — into one of five schedules based on their potential for abuse and accepted medical purposes. What makes Florida somewhat unique, however, is that in addition to classifying the more recognizable drugs (cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, etc.), it also classifies the compounds used to manufacture them.

To illustrate how this all works, consider the following:

  • A schedule I CDS is one recognized as having a high risk of abuse, no accepted medical purposes, and whose use under medical supervision does not meet accepted safety standards. Examples include heroin, peyote and mescaline.
  • A schedule II CDS is one recognized as having a high risk of abuse, accepted yet severely restricted medical purposes, and the possibility of "severe psychological or physical dependence" if abused. Examples include morphine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone.
  • A schedule III CDS is one recognized as having a lower risk of abuse than a schedule I or II CDS, an accepted medical purpose, and the possibility of high psychological or moderate/low physical dependence if abused. Examples include anabolic steroids.
  • A schedule IV CDS is one recognized as having a lower risk of abuse than a schedule III CDS, an accepted medical purpose, and the possibility of limited psychological or physical dependence if abused. Examples include lorazepam, diazepam and clonazepam.
  • A schedule V CDS is one recognized as having a lower risk of abuse than a schedule IV CDS, an accepted medical purpose, and the lowest possibility of psychological or physical dependence if abused. Examples include preparations/medications containing limited amounts of narcotics.

As you can imagine, those found to be in possession of a schedule I CDS face more severe consequences than those found to be in possession of a schedule V CDS. We’ll examine just how much more severe in a future post.

In the meantime, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible if you’ve been charged with possessing any sort of drug or any other drug-related crime. 


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