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Drug Possession Charges by State 2024

Regardless of the type of drug that a person possesses, it is illegal to distribute and use any dangerous drug in the United States. Not only will they cause physical harm to the body over time, but they will also affect a person’s mental state as they continue to use the drug. The rules and penalties surrounding drug possession differ in each state. Although most drugs are deemed illegal throughout the country, many states base the punishment of drug possession on the amount and type of drug that a person is carrying. To understand this topic a bit further, it is important to understand the ways drugs are classified.

Types of Drugs

Although each state has its stance on what to charge people for drug possession, all of them are in agreement that specific drugs will always be illegal. These drugs are known to cause significant harm to a person taking them, which is why anyone caught with the substance will be charged accordingly. Some of the illegal drugs that guarantee drug possession charges include opium, ecstasy, cocaine, and heroin. There are other legal drugs, however, that people can use and abuse that can be prescribed to them. These drugs include Xanax, codeine, ketamine, and Vicodin.


In order to stop drug abuse in the country, schedules have been implemented to help classify which drugs are harmless and which are dangerous. State leaders also follow these schedules to determine how to charge people for possession of certain drugs. The schedule goes like this:

  • Schedule I: Includes drugs that are not used for medical reasons but can be abused.
  • Schedule II: Includes drugs that people can abuse and become addicted to but can also be used for medical reasons.
  • Schedule III: Includes drugs that have a low chance of people abusing and becoming addicted to them, but that help with medical issues.
  • Schedule IV: Includes prescription drugs that can rarely be abused but can become addicting if people overuse them.
  • Schedule V: Includes medications that have a low chance of being abused.

Three Strike Laws

A way that states try to cut down on drug possession is to implement a three-strike rule for its residents. These three-strike laws indicate that once a person commits the same crime three times, they will serve a stricter punishment. Currently, 24 states have specific three-strike laws in their areas, including Missouri, Connecticut, Mississippi, Texas, and Arizona.

States differ in the type of punishments given to someone who has broken the three strikes law for drug possession. In some states, a person may have to serve a minimum sentence for possessing an illegal drug. Other areas, though, may require that someone serve life in prison for the possession.


As mentioned before, each state differs in what it would charge people based on the amount of a specific drug they possess. State laws vary in what amount is determined for which charge, especially when it comes to marijuana, but they generally have the same charges for the possession amounts. For instance, some states may impose a more uncomplicated charge, like a misdemeanor, for a small amount of marijuana. However, they may impose a harsher charge, like a felony, if someone possesses unprescribed opiates or cocaine. To understand each state’s stance on drug possession charges fully, check out this list.

Drug Possession Charges by State 2024