What Drugs Are Illegal in Colorado?

Although Colorado famously became one of the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, possession and recreational use of several other drugs remain illegal in the Centennial State. It also remains illegal to participate in some marijuana-related activities, such as driving under the influence and providing it to anyone under the age of 21.

Drug Schedules

Drugs that cannot legally be consumed on a recreational basis in Colorado are divided into five categories, which are known as schedules. Here is a partial list of drugs in each of those:
  • Schedule I – heroin, LSD
  • Schedule II – codeine, methamphetamine, opium
  • Schedule III – anabolic steroids, ketamine, hydrocodone
  • Schedule IV – lorazepam
  • Schedule V – buprenorphine
The drugs in Schedule I are judged to have the highest potential for abuse while those in Schedule V are deemed to be much less apt to result in a user developing physical or psychological dependence.

De-Felonizing Drug Possession

In March 2020, Colorado House Bill 1263 went into effect. It essentially de-felonized drug possession. Specifically, possessing less than 2 grams of Schedule I and II drugs changed from being a felony crime to a misdemeanor one.

As it relates to marijuana, possession of more than 6 ounces for personal use is now a misdemeanor as well. You may legally possess up to 1 ounce for personal use. More than that results in increasing levels of drug offenses – e.g. it is a petty drug offense for possession of between 1 and 2 ounces.

Drug-Related Felonies

With that said, a number of drug-related felonies remain on the books. These are divided into four levels:
  • Drug Felony 1
  • Drug Felony 2
  • Drug Felony 3
  • Drug Felony 4
DF1 is the most serious level. It generally results from being charged with distribution or manufacturing with an intent to distribute a considerable amount of drugs – e.g. more than 225 grams of a Schedule I or II drug.

Conversely, an example of a DF4 charge would be distribution or manufacturing with an intent to distribute less than 4 grams of many Schedule I or II drugs. Note that distributing less than 1 gram of marijuana to a minor is also a DF4 crime.

The sentences range from more severe for DF1 convictions – e.g. a sentence of 8-32 years – to less severe for those convicted of DF4 crimes – e.g. a sentence of six months to two years. The fines can be significant as well, ranging from a maximum of $1 million for a DF1 conviction to a minimum of $1,000 for a DF4 conviction.
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