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Although Schedule III drug charges aren’t as serious as Schedule I and II crimes, the outcome of your case will have a significant effect on your future.

Drug Scheduling System

A federal law, enacted in 1970, The Federal Controlled Substances Act classifies controlled substances (drugs) under a single law replacing an assortment of laws that had developed over time. Five separate categories were created by this law.

When classifying a drug, the first step is determining whether or not there are medical uses for the drug and the second is the drugs potential negative effect on mental or physical health including the potential for addiction. The Federal Drug Scheduling System classifies drugs according to how harmful they are and includes Schedule I, II, III, IV, and V. Schedule I is the most harmful and Schedule V has the lowest risk of abuse. In this article, we’ll discuss the list of Schedule III drugs.

What are Schedule III Drugs?

California follows the Federal Schedule for listed drugs in California Health and Safety Code § 11056 although California refers to them as C-III drugs. Schedule III drugs include narcotics and non-narcotics. Drugs included in the list of Schedule III drugs include narcotics that contain no more than 90 milligrams of codeine per dose.

Examples of Schedule III drugs include:

  • Dronabinol
  • Suboxone
  • Tylenol with codeine
  • Vicodin

Non-narcotics on the list of Schedule III drugs include:

  • Anabolic steroids
  • Ketamine
  • Benzphetamine
  • Marinol – a synthetic version of THC
  • Phendimetrazine

When determining which drugs will be Schedule III drugs, the risk of dependence is considered. Drugs with a moderate or low risk of physical dependence that have a high risk of psychological dependence may be classified as a Schedule 3 drug. They also have a potential for abuse, but that potential is less than drugs classified as Schedule I or II drugs.

All the Schedule III drugs are included in this alphabetic list of scheduled drugs.

Schedule III Drug Charges

The penalties for a Schedule III drug charge depend on whether the charge relates to simple possession or trafficking.

Possession (civil penalties)

Possession can be charged in two ways. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, Public Law. 100-690, contains “User Accountability” requirements for possession of personal use quantities of illegal drugs. The law is codified at 21 U.S.C. § 844a.

In addition to potential criminal penalties, the “User Accountability” law holds users personally accountable by imposing civil penalties. Individuals convicted of possession can also be denied public housing assistance and student loans.

In some cases, prosecutors will use this law to punish minor drug offenders but doesn’t leave them with the stain of a criminal record that can impede their ability to support themselves or their family.

The fine can be up to $10,000 but considers the individual’s income and assets so it doesn’t burden poor people with impossible fines.
The public record can be destroyed for first offenders who meet the requirements of paying their fine, not being convicted of a crime during the following three years, and pass a drug test.

Individuals with prior drug convictions and those who have taken advantage of this provision twice before are not eligible.

Possession (criminal penalties)

Possession is also subject to criminal penalties that vary based on the quantity of drugs the person is found in possession of and their criminal history.

  • First offenders are usually looking at a maximum of 1-year and a fine up to $1,000.
  • A second offense requires a minimum sentence of 15 days with a 2-year maximum and a fine of up to $2,500.
  • Third offense requires a minimum sentence of not less than 90 days and not more than 3-years and up the fine to a minimum of $5,000.

Any offense involving Flunitrazepam has a fine of up to $250,000 and up to 3 years in prison.
Minimum sentences may not be suspended or deferred.


Offenders guilty of trafficking illegal drugs are subject to stiffer penalties outlined in the DEA Enforcement Guide.
First offenders may not be sentenced to more than 10 years unless their crime caused serious injury or death, in which case the maximum is 15 years. The individual fine can’t be more than half a million, but if a company is involved, it increases to $2.5 million.
The potential penalties and fines double for second offenses.

What to Do if You Get Charged?

If you are charged with any crime involving Class III drugs, you need a drug crime attorney to represent you and help you fight the accusations. Your personal freedom, finances, and your future depend on the outcome of the case.

Contact an attorney as soon as possible. Delays can harm your position.

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