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Postgraduate medical training involves two legally distinct classes: persons with a valid license to practice medicine, and those without a valid license. Except for training in a federal hospital (which is not subject to state laws), the license must be from the state where the physician is in training. Postgraduate students who are not licensed have a legal status that is between that of medical students and licensed physicians. The rights of this status depend upon the laws of the state where the training takes place. The only federal law that applies is the Controlled Substances Act, which allows postgraduate trainees to write prescriptions for controlled substances using the hospital's federal drug registration number. The act does not override state law and does not allow "institutional licensing" unless it is also allowed by the state laws. The act stipulates that:

An individual practitioner who is an intern, resident, or foreign-trained physician or physician on the staff of a Veterans Administration facility, may according to the regulations, dispense and prescribe under the hospital registration provided that:

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