Legal Definition of “Controlled Substance” in California

Federal law considers several drugs illegal across the United States illegal. However, each individual state often passes its own laws listing which drugs carry which penalties. The resulting legal minefield proves difficult to navigate, especially for a first-time offender.

The state of California defines “controlled substance” as any drug, substance, or immediate precursor to such a substance listed in any of the following sections of the California Health and Safety Code: 11054, 11055, 11056, 11057, or 11058. Each section lists a “Schedule,” or classification of controlled substances, ranging from Schedule I (harshest penalties) to Schedule V (most lenient penalties). They go in numerical order, so Section 11054 lists Schedule I substances, while section 11058 handles Schedule V.

The state’s Schedule I substances include powerful opiates, such as heroin and morphine, amphetamines, depressants, and hallucinogenic substances, unless mentioned by name on another schedule. This language is important, because any new street drugs falling under these categories may receive automatic treatment as Schedule I drugs, without changing the law to include them by name.

The law includes other language to increase its applicability, as well. Any Schedule I compound’s isomers, salts, ethers, esters, and other derivatives are included each listing. The law also lists several chemical formulas to encompass the numerous controlled substances lacking standardized names.

Cannabis, including all marijuana preparations and THC, remained a Schedule I drug, until the Adult Use of Marijuana Act was passed on the November 2016 state ballot.

Section 11055 lists Schedule II substances in much the same manner as Schedule I. Sample Schedule II substances include raw opium, Codeine, several stimulants, and Oxycodone. Coca leaves also fall in this schedule, unless subjected to a decocainization process.

Schedule III substances includes most of the Schedule I and II substances with approved therapeutic uses and dosages. Approved drugs are dictated by the federal government in Section 1308.32 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21. This means that the quantity of a controlled substance has a significant impact on the penalty associated with it. Anabolic steroids, stimulants, and depressants are listed here.

Schedule IV is similar to Schedule III. It includes weaker depressants and narcotics, some with medical uses approved by the federal government of the United States.

Last, Schedule V is the smallest schedule and includes only narcotics mixed with non-narcotic compounds for an approved medical use. The amount of the narcotic substance that appears in these formulations is monitored with care.

California’s laws are not intuitive when it comes to what drug is on what schedule. If you ever find yourself facing a drug-related charge in the state, contact a drug lawyer for a free consultation, instead of trying to navigate the judicial process on your own.