Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS)
Attorneys Serving Millersville, Maryland
Maryland’s drug laws prohibit the unlawful manufacture, possession, use, and distribution of all controlled dangerous substances (CDS) classified as having the potential for abuse; including, but not limited, to cocaine, heroin, PCP, methamphetamines, LSD, marijuana, and ecstasy. Maryland law classifies drugs with the potential for abuse into five different categories (or “schedules”). Schedule I CDS are drugs without any legitimate medical or scientific purpose and are considered by the state of Maryland to pose a danger to the welfare of its citizens. Schedule II through V CDS are drugs that may be legally dispensed or prescribed for a legitimate medical purpose by a medical professional. However, these drugs are only legal for medicinal use by the individuals to whom they were prescribed. Controlled substances also include those immediate precursors to CDS, such as chemicals or other substances that are both suitable and intended for the manufacture of CDS. Maryland’s CDS schedules include narcotic and non-narcotic drugs that are available by prescription or through an illicit purchase. The following table provides a brief description of the types of drugs in each of the five schedules:
Type of Substance
Potential for Abuse
Approved for Medically Accepted Use?
Potential for Physical or Psychological Dependence
Prescription and Refills
Not available by prescription
Heroin, Marijuana, Ecstasy, LSD
Yes, with severe restrictions
By prescription only, no refills
Cocaine, Ritalin, Opium, Vicodin, Oxycodone, Methamphetamine, Morphine
Moderate or low-physical; high-psychological
By prescription only, up to 5 refills in 6 months
Anabolic steroids, Ketamine, Marinol
By prescription only, up to 5 refills in 6 months
Xanax, Valium, Ambien
May be available without a prescription, for medical use only
Cough suppressants containing Codeine, Lyrica, Pyrovalerone
The schedule of drugs that you are accused of using, possessing, manufacturing, or distributing will largely determine the possible minimum and maximum sentence you face if found guilty. Penalties for a Schedule I or II drugs will typically be more severe than those for Schedule III-V drugs.
Although Maryland policymakers have attempted to work toward treatment, not incarceration, for CDS-related crimes committed by nonviolent, first-time offenders, the law still requires mandatory minimum sentences for some drug-related crimes. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws require judges to impose a fixed minimum sentence for defendants convicted of CDS-related crimes. The judge has no discretion to impose a lesser sentence in light of mitigating factors, such as the likelihood that you will not commit a future offense or the fact that you played a limited role in the commission of the crime. The length of the sentence is dependent on the following factors:
Quantity of Drugs: If you are charged with possession of a large number of drugs, you may be charged with possession with an attempt to distribute, which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years for Schedule III-V drugs and 20 years for Schedule I-II drugs. If you are only charged with possession of a smaller quantity of any scheduled drug, your maximum sentence is 4 years. Therefore, the number of drugs with which you are charged with possessing may drastically affect your potential jail sentence.
Crime Committed: A charge of simple possession carries a lesser potential sentence than manufacturing, distributing, or trafficking a CDS. If you engage a minor in the manufacture, delivery, or distribution of a CDS, you face a felony charge with the potential of 20 years in prison and $20,000 in fines. If a firearm is used in the commission of a drug trafficking crime, you face a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years in prison for a first violation and a minimum of 10 years in prison for a subsequent violation. The sentence is doubled if the firearm was a machine gun or fitted with a silencer. These sentences must run consecutively with the sentence for the underlying drug crime.
Drug Schedule: The type of drug involved in the crime may significantly affect the sentence you face if convicted. Sentences for Schedule I and II CDS are generally much higher than those for lesser schedule drugs.
Criminal History: Prior drug offenses may significantly increase your sentence if you are convicted. Mandatory minimum sentences are generally increased for individuals convicted of a second, third, or subsequent offense.
Location: Maryland law makes it a separate felony offense to manufacture, distribute, dispense, or possess with intent to distribute a CDS in a school vehicle or within 1,000 feet of a school building. A first-time offender faces a punishment of up to 20 years in prison and $20,000 in fines. Subsequent violations will net you a minimum of 5 years in prison and a potential $40,000 in fines. This sentence is to be served consecutively with the sentence you receive for the underlying drug charge.
The following table outlines the potential penalties for several different drug crimes in Maryland:
Type of Drug
Type of Charge
Possess or Attempt to Obtain
4 Years Maximum
1 Year Maximum
Manufacture, Distribute, or Possess with Intent to Distribute
20 Years Maximum
1 Prior Conviction for Similar Offense
10 Years Minimum
2 Prior Convictions for Similar Offense
25 Years Minimum
3 Prior Convictions for Similar Offenses
40 Years Minimum
5 Years Maximum
1 Prior Conviction for Similar Offense
2 Years Minimum
Organize, Supervise, Finance, Manage or Conspire to Manufacture, Distribute, Dispense, Transport, or Import
$1 Million Maximum
20 Years Minimum/40 Years Maximum
Fingernail polish, glue, or other substance that causes inebriation
Maryland law allows for a “medical necessity” defense for individuals charged with the use or possession of marijuana. If the court finds a legitimate medical necessity exists, the maximum sentence that the judge may impose is a $100 fine with no jail time.
It is also against the law in Maryland to possess, attempt to obtain, or sell items that can be considered “drug paraphernalia.” Almost any item may be considered drug paraphernalia if it is used or intended to be used to cultivate, use, or conceal a CDS. The following list provides examples of paraphernalia:
Hypodermic needles, syringes, or any item or combination of items adapted for the purpose of injecting a CDS.
Gelatin capsules, glassine envelopes, balloons, and other items or objects that are suitable for or intended for the packaging of individual quantities of CDS.
Substances that are suitable, designed, used, or intended for the compounding, dilution, or adulteration of a CDS. This refers to those types of substances commonly used to “cut” a CDS for the purpose of increasing the volume or used to interfere with the accuracy of drug tests.
Any chemical intermediary compounds that are used or likely to be used for the manufacture of CDS.
Any kind of kit designed or intended for the planting, growing, cultivating, or harvesting of illegal plants that are CDS.
Testing kits that are designed to analyze or test the purity of a CDS.
Any scale, balance, or other device intended to weigh quantities of CDS.
Any type of blender, bowl, spoon, or other object used, intended or designed for compounding a CDS.
A separation gin, strainer, sifter, or other object used or intended for use in separating seeds, stems, and twigs from marijuana plants.
Any object used for the storage, containment, or concealment of a CDS.
Any object used, intended for use, or adapted for use in inhaling or otherwise introducing marijuana, cocaine, hashish, or hashish oil into the body. Such objects specifically include:
Pipes made of any material, including air-driven and electric pipes
Carburetion devices and masks
Vials and spoons for cocaine
Bongs and other pipes meant to be filled with water or ice
The above list provides examples of what Maryland law classifies as drug paraphernalia, but it is by no means comprehensive. Items that do not appear on the list may still be seized as drug paraphernalia, depending upon the context in which they were discovered by law enforcement. The penalty for possessing, using, or manufacturing drug paraphernalia is a fine of $500 for the first offense, a sentence of up to 2 years, and a fine of $2,000 for each subsequent offense. If you have been charged with possessing paraphernalia related to marijuana used for medical necessity, you only face a maximum $100 fine.
For more information on Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS), a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking and talk to Arnold F. Phillips by calling today. We serve the areas of Millersville, Cumberland, McHenry, Garrett County, and Allegany County, Maryland.