Controlled Substance Classifications Vary Widely Around the Globe

Las Vegas—A new paper provides the first compendium of controlled substance classification systems around the world, revealing a broad spectrum of regulations but little consensus as to what works best.

The investigators reviewed the controlled substances regulations in 23 countries, and found they each have between two and 15 controlled substance schedules (Figure). Most have between two and 10. The regulations are varied, to say the least: Portugal, one of the few countries in the world that has no criminal penalties for personal drug possession, has six schedules; the United States has five, including marijuana in Schedule I, and has some of the world’s harshest penalties for possession and sales. The authors question whether tighter, more uniform regulations are even inherently logical.

Figure. Number of schedules in different countries.
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