For over 100 years, federal laws have been in place. These laws regulate and/or tax the production, importation, distribution, or possession of certain substances. Today, Connecticut’s array of drug laws has a foundation largely on the policies implemented by former President Nixon. When he declared a “War on Drugs” in 1969, he also implemented the Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Control Act of 1970. Arrests and incarcerations for drug offenses have risen since the War on Drugs. In 2008, 1.5 million Americans got arrested for drug related offenses and 500,000 faced imprisonment.
Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Control Act of 1970
The Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Control Act of 1970 repealed most of the earlier federal antidrug laws. They did so in favor of a comprehensive regime to combat the international and interstate traffic of illicit drugs. The original enactment consists of three titles. Title I relates to the prevention and treatment of narcotic addicts through the Department of Health and Human Services. Then, Title II addresses drug control and enforcement as administered by the Attorney General and the Drug Enforcement Administration. And finally, Title III concerns the import and export of controlled substances.
Title II of the Act, codified as Subchapter 1 under 21 U.S.C.A. §§ 801 to 904, popularly known as the “Controlled Substances Act,” or simply the “CSA.” The CSA categorizes controlled substances into five schedules. This depends on their accepted medical uses, potential for abuse, and psychological and physical effects on the body. Each schedule refers to a distinct set of controls regarding the manufacture, distribution, and use of the substances listed therein, and the applicable provisions set forth strict requirements regarding registration, labeling, packaging, production quotas, drug security, and record-keeping. The CSA specifies prohibited acts and penalties and sets forth administrative and enforcement provisions. The Drug Enforcement Administration enforces the laws and regulations set forth in the CSA.
While the CSA authorizes federal prosecution for almost any drug offense, the DEA tends to focus its time and resources on the most serious offenders who engage in serious interstate trafficking of controlled substances, which leaves the majority of drug crime offenders to be prosecuted by the states. One important aspect of the Connecticut drug prosecution scheme is that it protects defendants from being subject to double jeopardy and piling on penalties that would result from both state and federal prosecution for the same offense. CGSA § 21a-282 provides:
No prosecution where federal action happened. No person shall be prosecuted for a violation of any provision of sections 21a-243 to 21a-282, inclusive, if such person has been acquitted or convicted under the federal Controlled Substances Act [FN1] or under the federal food and drug laws for the same act or omission which, it is alleged, constitutes a violation of said sections.
Any defendant facing drug charges should understand whether they are being prosecuted under state or federal law. Also, they need to employ a qualified criminal defense attorney in either case. Fortunately, in Connecticut, they will be subject to one or the other, not both.