The word “drug” means different things to different people. To the scientist it means any chemical substance that can affect the way the body functions. To the pharmacist it is a medication that can be used to minimize symptoms of an illness or help to cure an ailment or disease. Law enforcement officers are more concerned with the specific use of “illegal” drugs. These are called controlled dangerous substances (CDS) and if you have any of these in your possession you could end up being arrested and charged with a criminal offense.
Alaska state laws specify exactly what substances are regarded as controlled dangerous substances and what penalties there are if you are found in possession of different amounts of them. The law also makes a clear distinction between small amounts of a controlled substance which are intended for personal consumption and larger amounts which may be considered intended for distribution or sale. Drug distribution penalties are more severe than penalties for possession.
It is important to learn about what substances are on the list of illegal drugs in Alaska and what the penalties are for possession if you:
- use drugs yourself;
- are thinking about using drugs;
- live in the same household as others who you know or you suspect use drugs;
- associate with other people, friends or family who use drugs;
- have been arrested for possession of a controlled substance (CDS).
Each drug which Alaska classifies as a controlled dangerous substance is put in one of six groups called “schedules.” The schedules range from what are considered most dangerous to human health to the least dangerous. Note that even some drugs that are sold as pharmaceutical drugs or medicines are found in one of these groups because the state believes that the substance may be potentially harmful if not taken under direction of a physician. For example, codeine is a powerful painkiller and small amounts of it are often mixed with other substances in prescription medications. However, it is also an opioid drug and can have similar effects on the brain, such as sensations, feelings and behavior as other opioids.
Listing every controlled drug on the state list of schedules is not possible here, but can easily be found by an internet search. A very brief summary is given below. The important thing to know is that possession of any scheduled drug is likely to be illegal and penalties for possession increase in proportion depending on:
- the schedule the drug is listed on;
- how much you are alleged to have in your possession;
- whether you have been convicted of possession of a CDS before.
The least serious schedule is VIA. Currently, the only drug listed on VIA is marijuana. In fact, apart from prescribed controlled drugs this is also the only controlled substance that you are allowed to have in your possession legally (up to an ounce, anyway).
The following schedules are arranged in greater degrees of seriousness and associated penalties if convicted of possession.
Schedule VA e.g. anabolic steroids and certain dosages of codeine;
Schedule IVA e.g. barbiturates and diazepram
Schedule IIIA e.g. hash and hash oil
Schedule IIA e.g. PCP and peyote
Schedule IA e.g. the opioids, or any drug based on an opioid such as heroin, hydrocodone and fentanyl. Cocaine is also included in this schedule.
Note that the federal government also has a similar system of classifying controlled dangerous substances according to their perceived degree of harmfulness. The list of schedules is similar to, but not exactly the same as Alaska’s state classification system, e.g. cocaine is a Schedule II drug on the federal system but considered more dangerous in Alaska and listed as a Schedule IA drug.
How Penalties are Determined
If you are charged with a drug offense in Alaska and are convicted, you face imprisonment and a fine at the very least. The actual penalties depend on many factors, but basically the more harmful the substance you are alleged to have in your possession (the higher up the schedule classification) and the more you have of it, the more severe the penalty. There are other things that may also influence a potential penalty such as whether it was alleged that you were found in possession of a CDS close to a school, a bus or a youth center or recreational facility. Second and third convictions, like other crimes, are also considered in increasing severity.
Alaska considers possession of any controlled substance with the exception of marijuana (with limitations) very seriously and applies harsh penalties if you are convicted. Because illegal drug use is widespread in Alaska it is easy to be caught in a compromising situation and then face an undeserved drug crime charge. Because of the complexity of Alaska’s drug laws, you should not delay calling a criminal defense attorney to help in your defense. In Anchorage, contact the Law Office of Dattan Scott Dattan as soon as you have been arrested. He will fight to represent you in court. Call Dattan Scott Dattan’s office in Anchorage at 907-276-8008.