Colorado Drug Possession Penalties
Despite Colorado being one of the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use, the government still takes a firm stance on drug possession. However, the severity of these crimes can vary based on the drug classification and circumstances of use.
Drug Classification Schedules
Colorado follows a similar drug classification schedule set by the federal government, which ranks different types of drugs based on medical usage, how often they are abused, and relation to dependency. The schedules are as follows:
Schedule I: High potential for abuse and severe dependence with no accepted medical use - like heroin and psychedelics.
Schedule II: High potential for abuse and severe dependence with accepted medical uses - like morphine or opioids.
Schedule III: Moderate potential for abuse and dependence - like ketamine or anabolic steroids.
Schedule IV: Low potential for abuse and dependence with accepted medical usage - like valium or Xanax.
Schedule V: Very low potential for abuse and dependence with accepted medical use - like codeine infused cough syrup.
Schedule III, IV, and V may have more lenient thresholds considering they are the classifications that can be obtained with a legal prescription. However, if you are using these drugs without a valid prescription, it can result in a significant penalty.
3 Types of Drug Possession Crimes
Currently, Colorado has three main classifications for drug possession crimes. These are classified as drug felonies, drug misdemeanors, and drug petty offenses.
Drug felonies can include possession of Schedule I or II drugs depending on the amount, intent of sale, or previous drug crime conviction. The conditions under which the crime was committed can determine which level you fall into:
Drug Felony 1: Mandatory sentence to prison of at least 8 years and up to a $1 million fine.
Drug Felony 2: 4-8 years in prison for presumptive cases, 8-16 for aggravated, and up to a $750 thousand fine.
Drug Felony 3: 2-4 years in prison for presumptive, 4-6 for aggravated, and up to a $500 thousand fine.
Drug Felony 4: 6 months-1 year for presumptive, 1-2 years for aggravated, and up to $100 thousand fine.
In simplest terms, presumptive would be the default or minimum punishment, while aggravated can include anyone with a previous felony charge or currently on parole. We also want to note that each drug felony has mandatory parole ranging from 1 to 3 years, depending on its level.
Drug misdemeanors are separated into two different levels based on the severity of the crime or drug in your possession. They can be defined as such:
Drug Misdemeanor 1: Minimum 6 months in jail and/or $500 fine, maximum of 18 months in jail and/or $5000 fine. This level can include possession of Schedule III, IV, or V drugs or more than 6 ounces of marijuana/3 ounces of marijuana concentrate. You can view the full list of level 1 offenses here.
Drug Misdemeanor 2: Minimum no jail time and $50 fine, maximum 12 months in jail with a $750 fine. This level can include huffing (inhaling vapors) or using a controlled substance that is not prescribed to you. You can view the full list of level 2 offenses here.
Drug Petty Offenses
Drug petty offenses can be separated into three different categories:
Marijuana-related offenses of 2 ounces or less including possession, public use or display, dispense
Controlled substance possession without legal prescription or in unauthorized container
Drug paraphernalia possession
The penalty for a drug petty offense is a $100 fine, although the court may include mandatory community service depending on the offense.
Recent Changes to Colorado Drug Classifications
Earlier this year, Colorado passed HB 19-1263, decreasing the severity of certain possession charges to misdemeanors instead of felonies. The goal was to limit the number of people being incarcerated for personal drug possession without intent to distribute. However, some grievances already being had with the new law is that specific Schedule I and Schedule II drugs are classified as misdemeanors if carrying less than 4 grams. The problem with this is that it's presumed to include fentanyl, which is highly lethal even in milligram-sized doses. This new law also decreased offenses for marijuana possession over 12 ounces.
It is important to note that the new law only applies to possession and that the distribution penalties remain the same.
Charged With a Drug Crime? Contact Law Office of Kevin Cahill
Our Colorado criminal defense attorneys specialize in drug crimes ranging from possession to trafficking. If you or a loved one have been charged with a drug crime and need representation, call (720) 548-2990 to schedule a consultation.