Possession of a Controlled Substance in Arkansas

Arkansas classifies not only well-known drugs like marijuana, heroin, and cocaine as controlled substances, but also the compounds used to manufacture them.

All states regulate and control the possession of controlled substances. Arkansas classifies not only well-known drugs like marijuana, heroin, and cocaine as controlled substances, but also the compounds used to manufacture them.

This article discusses possession of controlled substances for personal use only. Possession of drugs for sale or distribution carries different penalties. For more information on possession with intent to sell or distribute, see Sale of Controlled Substances in Arkansas.

Classification of Controlled Substances: Schedules I to VI

Arkansas classifies controlled substances into six “schedules,” according to their potential for abuse and accepted medical use. Some controlled substances, like codeine (a common painkiller), can be possessed legally so long as the holder has a valid prescription.

  • Schedule I drugs (such as opiates and hallucinogenics) have the highest likelihood of abuse and no accepted medical use.
  • Schedule II drugs (such as raw opium and amphetamines) have a high likelihood of abuse, have an accepted medical use, and if abused, can result in severe psychological and physical dependence.
  • Schedule III drugs (such as pentobarbital and anabolic steroids) have a lower likelihood of abuse than Schedule I or II drugs, have an accepted medical use, and if abused, can lead to low or moderate physical dependence and high psychological dependence.
  • Schedule IV drugs (such as changed tramadol) have a lower likelihood of abuse than Schedule III drugs, have an acceptable medical use, and if abused, can lead to limited psychological and physical dependence.
  • Schedule V drugs (such as pseudoephedrine) have a lower likelihood of abuse than Schedule IV drugs, have a currently accepted medical use, and can lead to limited physical or psychological dependence compared to Schedule IV drugs.
  • Schedule VI drugs (marijuana and salvia divinorum) are substances that have no acceptable medical use, are unsafe even under direct medical supervision, have a high likelihood of physical and/or psychological dependence, and their use poses a significant risk to public health.

For more on marijuana possession, see Possession of Marijuana in Arkansas.

(Ark. Code §§ 5-64-203 to -216 (2019).)

Possession Crimes

In Arkansas, illegal possession of controlled substances carries a range of penalties that can include jail or prison time.

Arkansas divides felonies by severity into six offense classes (unclassified, Y, A, B, C, and D), with the most serious felonies placed in class Y and the least serious felonies in class D. Felony drug possession crimes fall into classes A, B, C, and D with penalties from a year to up to 30 years in prison.

Misdemeanors have three classifications (A, B, and C). Illegal possession of certain controlled substances is a class A misdemeanor, which is the most serious misdemeanor offense level and carries a maximum sentence of one year’s imprisonment.

(Ark. Code § 5-4-401 (2019).)

Possession of Schedule I or II Controlled Substances

Penalties for possession of schedule I or II drugs range from a class D to class B felony.

Cocaine or Methamphetamine

The punishment for possession of Schedules I or II controlled substances (cocaine or methamphetamine only) depends on the amount of the drug in the defendant’s possession.

  • Possession of less than two grams is a class D felony.
  • Possession of two grams or more but less than ten grams is a class C felony.
  • Possession of ten grams or more but less than 200 grams is a class B felony.

Not Cocaine or Methamphetamine

The punishment for possession of Schedules I or II controlled substance (not cocaine or methamphetamine) depends on the amount of the drug in the defendant’s possession.

  • Possession of less than two grams is a class D felony.
  • Possession of two grams or more but less than 28 grams is a class C felony.
  • Possession of 28 grams or more but less than 100 grams is a class B felony.

(Ark. Code § 5-64-419 (2019).)

Possession of Schedule III Controlled Substances

The punishment for possession of Schedule III controlled substances depends on the amount of the drug in the defendant’s possession.

  • Possession of less than two grams is a class A misdemeanor except, if the person has four or more prior convictions, the penalty increases to class D felony.
  • Possession of two grams or more but less than 28 grams is a class D felony.
  • Possession of 28 grams or more but less than 200 grams is a class C felony.
  • Possession of 200 grams or more but less than 400 grams is a class B felony.

(Ark. Code § 5-64-419 (2019).)

Possession of Schedule IV or V Controlled Substances

The punishment for possession of Schedules IV or V controlled substances depends on the amount of the drug in the defendant’s possession.

  • Possession of less than 28 grams is a class A misdemeanor except, if the person has four or more prior convictions, the penalty increases to class D felony.
  • Possession of 28 grams or more but less than 200 grams is a class D felony.
  • Possession of 200 grams or more but less than 400 grams is a class C felony.
  • Possession of 400 grams or more but less than 800 grams is a class B felony.

(Ark. Code § 5-64-419 (2019).)

Possession of Schedule VI Controlled Substances

The punishment for possession of Schedules VI controlled substances depends on the amount of the drug in the defendant’s possession and whether the defendant has any prior convictions for possession of Schedule VI controlled substances.

  • Possession of less than four ounces is a class A misdemeanor.
  • Possession of one ounce or more but less than four ounces, when the defendant has four previous convictions for possession of Schedule VI drug, is a class D felony.
  • Possession of four ounces or more but less than ten pounds is a class D felony.
  • Possession of ten pounds or more but less than 25 pounds is a class C felony.
  • Possession of 25 pounds or more but less than 100 pounds is a class B felony.
  • Possession of 100 pounds or more but less than 500 pounds is a class A felony.

(Ark. Code § 5-64-419 (2019).)

Trafficking: Schedules I to VI

Possession of the following amounts of a controlled substance constitutes trafficking and is punishable as a Class Y felony:

  • 200 grams or more of a Schedule I or II drug,
  • 400 grams or more of a Schedule III drug,
  • 800 grams or more of a Schedule IV or V drug, and
  • 500 pounds or more of a Schedule VI drug.

(Ark. Code 5-64-440 (2019).)

Enhanced Penalties for Possession Crimes

Arkansas law provides harsher penalties for possession crimes committed by repeat offenders and inmates or near areas with vulnerable populations.

Repeat Offenders

The law allows extended terms of imprisonment for defendants with prior felony convictions. In addition, a sentence can be doubled for certain repeat drug convictions. (Ark. Code §§ 5-4-501, 5-64-408 (2019).)

Inmate in a Detention Facility

A defendant convicted of possession of drugs in a state, county, city, or juvenile detention facility will be punished under the next higher criminal classification.

(Ark. Code § 5-64-419 (2019).)

Near Schools, Public Facilities, and Other Designated Areas

A defendant convicted of a class C felony possession or higher within 1,000 feet of these facilities may be punished by an additional ten years’ incarceration:

  • city or state park
  • public or private school, college, or university campus
  • school bus stop
  • skating rink, Boys Club, Girls Club, YMCA, YWCA, community center, recreation center, or video arcade
  • public housing project
  • drug or alcohol treatment center
  • daycare center
  • place of worship, or
  • shelter as defined.

(Ark. Code § 5-64-411 (2019).)

Other Possession Crimes

Arkansas also makes it illegal to possess and use drug paraphernalia—items used to ingest, inhale, or inject controlled substances. When drug paraphernalia is used to introduce methamphetamine, heroin, fentanyl, or cocaine into the body, the offense is a class D felony. In all other cases, it’s a class A misdemeanor. (Ark. Code § 54-64-443.)

While nitrous oxide is not listed as a scheduled controlled substance, Arkansas punishes people who possess nitrous oxide for the purpose of intoxication. The unlawful possession of nitrous oxide is a class A misdemeanor. (Ark. Code § 54-64-1201 (2019).)

Talk to an Attorney

Convictions for drug possession can result in heavy fines and incarceration, with even steeper penalties for people with a criminal history. An attorney who specializes in the defense of drug crimes will review the facts of your case and advise you of your different options and their possible outcomes.

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