Many of the state drug laws on the books today harken back to the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, which established schedules for drugs based on abuse potential and perceived medical benefit as well as the doctrine of criminal forfeiture. This doctrine allows for the seizure of property involved in crimes to include drug crimes. The CDAPCA also gives authorities the ability to prosecute users and manufacturers for drugs that are not themselves illegal but behave in the human body the same way as illicit drugs.

The CDAPCA was established to prevent drug crimes based upon the increasing prevalence of drugs in American society from the early 1960s and onward. It created categories known as schedules for every type of drug, from over-the-counter medications to marijuana and ecstasy. Schedule V has the lowest perceived abuse potential, while Schedule I encompasses drugs such as heroin and LSD, which are considered extremely dangerous.

In addition, the CDAPCA altered the way importation, sale and possession of various kinds of drugs was prosecuted and allowed authorities broader discretion in combating drug-related offenses. The act also provided for scientific research into drugs and drug abuse, as well as prevention and treatment methodologies. Under the auspices of the CDAPCA, the Drug Enforcement Agency was tasked with enforcing U.S. drug laws.

In preparing a defense for charges of manufacture, possession or use of illegal narcotics, an attorney might begin by considering where in the CDAPCA’s schedules the alleged drug falls. The attorney may question whether the client actually used the drug at all or examine the arrest record to make sure all the client’s constitutional rights were upheld before, during and after the arrest.