Colorado GHB Laws

bottle of mixed GHB next to GHB powder

Use, possession and sale of GHB in Colorado

Colorado's laws on controlled substances make it a crime to knowingly use, possess, or sell gamma hydroxybutyrate, known as “GHB” for short.

Despite its use in the treatment of narcolepsy, Colorado classifies GHB as a Schedule I controlled substance.1 Schedule 1 drugs are those that, in the opinion of the government:

  • Have a high potential for abuse,
  • Have no currently accepted medical use in the United States, and 
  • Lack accepted safety for use under medical supervision.

Penalties for GHB use, possession or sale

Using GHB is a Colorado misdemeanor that can be punished by a fine of between $50 and $750. Alternatively, if this is your first Colorado drug offense, you may be eligible for drug diversion and treatment. Under this program if you successfully complete treatment, your misdemeanor drug charges will be dismissed.

However, possession of GHB is often charged instead of use. Possessing GHB is a felony in Colorado, as is selling it or possessing it for sale.

Potential consequences of possessing GHB for personal use can include:

  • Up to one year of incarceration, and/or
  • A fine of up to $100,000, plus
  • A drug offender surcharge of $1,500.

However, if the quantity of GHB you possessed was less than 4 grams and you are not ineligible for probation or drug treatment, the court can suspend sentencing and place you on probation while you undergo drug analysis and treatment. Upon successful completion, the court will reduce your felony GHB possession charges to a misdemeanor.

Penalties for selling GHB or possessing it for sale depend largely on the quantity. Incarceration for selling GHB can range from 6 months in jail to as much as 32 years in prison for large-scale distribution.

You may also spend up to 4 years in prison and be fined up to $500,000 if you violate Colorado's law against drugging some with GHB, 18-13-123 C.R.S.

Defending Colorado GHB charges

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to defend against Colorado GHB laws, especially when you are charged with use or simple possession.

But even when you are accused of selling GHB or possessing GHB for sale, common defenses a skilled Colorado drug defense lawyer can raise include (but are not limited to):

  • The GHB wasn't yours,
  • The GHB was for your personal use,
  • You didn't know you had the GHB,
  • You possessed the GHB, but you didn't know that what you had was a controlled substance,
  • There wasn't enough GHB to use as a drug, or
  • The drugs were found during an illegal search or as a result of police misconduct.

To help you better understand Colorado's laws on GHB, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:

Xyrem packaging and bottle

1. What is GHB?

GHB or Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (C4H8O3) is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. It is odorless and colorless and can often induce amnesia. As a result, it is sometimes combined with alcohol and given to unsuspecting victims prior to sexual assaults, making it a so-called “date rape” drug.

GHB is frequently used recreationally as a "club drug" or "party drug." Recreational GHB is bought on the streets or over the Internet in liquid form or as a white powdered material. It is taken orally and is frequently combined with alcohol. Much of the GHB found on the streets or over the Internet is produced illegally using toxic substances such as lye or drain cleaner mixed with GBL (Gamma-Butyrolactone), an industrial solvent and chemical cousin of GHB.

Reported attractions of GHB include euphoria, increased sex drive, and tranquility. However, GHB also produces immediate negative effects that can include:

  • Sweating,
  • Loss of consciousness (in over 2/3 of users), 
  • Nausea, 
  • Auditory and visual hallucinations, 
  • Headaches, 
  • Vomiting, 
  • Exhaustion, 
  • Sluggishness, 
  • Amnesia, 
  • Confusion, and 
  • Clumsiness.

Long-term use can produce dependency and the risk of severe and incapacitating withdrawal, with symptoms that can include insomnia, anxiety, tremors, and sweating.

1.1. Does Xyrem (sodium oxybate) count as GHB?

Xyrem (sodium oxybate) is a brand name prescription drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002 for the treatment of narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes excessive sleepiness and recurring daytime sleep attacks.

Xyrem is the sodium salt of gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB). Although GHB in its pure form is a Schedule 1 controlled substance, Xyrem is legal in Colorado with a prescription. Xyrem is, however, a highly regulated drug. When legally prescribed, it is a Schedule III controlled substance and requires patient enrollment in a restricted access program. However, when sold or used illegally, Xyrem counts as a Schedule I drug.

2. Unlawful use of GHB --- Colorado 18-18-404 C.R.S.

As a Schedule 1 drug, GHB has no legally accepted use in the United States, other than the prescription use of Xyrem.

However, the state of Colorado is more interested in getting addicts the help they need rather than punishing them – that is, as long as they are not involved in selling or distributing the drug.

Accordingly, simply using GHB is a Colorado level 2 drug misdemeanor under Section 18-18-404 of the Colorado Revised Statutes.

2.1. Penalty for unlawful use of GHB

There is no jail time for unlawfully using GHB in Colorado. The sole penalty is a potential fine of $50-$750.

However, if you possess the GHB you use (as opposed to being given it by someone else), you face prosecution for unlawful possession, a more serious crime.

3. Possession of GHB --Colorado 18-18-403.5 C.R.S.

Section 18-18-403.5 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) makes it a class 4 drug felony to knowingly possess GHB.

You knowingly possess GHB when you know that you have it and you know that it is a controlled substance (even if you don't know what it is or its chemical makeup).

3.1. Penalties for possession of GHB

Punishment for knowingly possessing GHB in Colorado can include:

  • 6-12 months of incarceration (plus 1 year of parole), and/or
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000, plus
  • A drug offender surcharge of $1,500.

Alternatively, if you are eligible, the court may give you probation and defer your sentence while you undergo drug assessment and treatment. If you successfully complete drug treatment and do not violate the conditions of your probation, your charges may be dismissed or reduced.

Terms and conditions of your probation may include (without limitation):

  • That you not use unlawful drugs while on probation,
  • That you attend and complete a court-approved drug treatment program,
  • That you not commit any crimes, and/or
  • Anything else the court deems in your and the public's best interests.

You are not eligible for probation or for a fine instead of imprisonment, community corrections, or work release if you have two or more prior convictions for a felony. The prior felonies will count if they were:

  • Felonies under the laws of Colorado or any other state,
  • Federal felonies, or
  • Juvenile crimes that would have been felonies if committed by an adult.2

And finally, if you are subject to Colorado's aggravating drug felony sentencing range, the court must sentence you to at least 9 months of incarceration (with the maximum possible sentence increasing to 2 years in prison). Aggravated sentencing applies in numerous situations, such as being incarcerated or on parole for a felony at the time of your GHB possession or sale.

For a full list of aggravating factors, please see our article on Colorado's aggravated drug sentencing.

4. Unlawful sale or possession for sale of GHB -- Colorado 18-18-405 C.R.S.

18-18-405 C.R.S. makes it a felony to do any of the following with GHB:

  • sell, 
  • manufacture, 
  • distribute,
  • dispense,
  • possess for sale,
  • induce, attempt to induce, or conspire with one or more other persons to do any of the foregoing, or 
  • possess one or more chemicals or supplies or equipment with intent to manufacture GHB.

4.1. Penalties for sale of GHB or possession with intent to sell

Sale of GHB (or possession with intent to sell) is a Colorado felony. Penalties for the sale or possession for sale of GHB depend on:

  • The quantity of GHB involved, and
  • The age of the person you sell or intend to sell to.
man standing near playground with white powered drug in his hand

4.1.1. More than 112 grams or sale to a minor

Selling GHB, or possessing it for sale, is a Colorado level 1 drug felony when:

Any material, compound, mixture, or preparation containing GHB weighs more than 112 grams (just under 4 ounces), or
You are an adult and you sell, dispense, distribute, or otherwise transfer any quantity of GHB (or any material, compound, mixture, or preparation that contains GHB) to a minor who is at least two years younger than you.3

Consequences of a Colorado level 1 GHB felony can include:

  • 8-32 years in prison (with a minimum of 8 years mandatory and 3 years mandatory parole),
  • A potential fine of $5,000-$1,000,000, and
  • A drug offender surcharge of $4,500.

And if you are subject to Colorado's aggravated felony drug sentencing, you face a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 12 years.

4.1.2. More than 7 grams, but not more than 112 grams

Selling GHB or possessing it for sale is a Colorado level 2 drug felony if the material, compound, mixture, or preparation containing GHB weighs more than 7 grams but not more than 112 grams.4

As a Colorado level 2 drug felony, GHB sale or possession for sale can be punished by:

  • 4-8 years in prison (with 2 years mandatory parole), and/or
  • A fine of $3,000-$750,000, plus
  • A drug offender surcharge of $3,000.

If you are subject to Colorado's aggravated sentencing range, however, you face a mandatory minimum sentence of 8 years in prison and may be imprisoned for as long as 16 years.

4.1.3. Not more than 7 grams

You commit a level 3 drug felony when you sell or possess for sale any material, compound, mixture, or preparation containing GHB and weighing not more than 7 grams.5

Consequences of selling this small quantity of GHB or possessing it for sale can include:

  • 2-4 years in prison (with 1 year mandatory parole), and/or
  • A fine of $2,000-$500,000, plus
  • A drug offender surcharge of $2,000.

In the aggravated range, a Colorado level 3 drug felony can be punished by 4-6 years in prison.

4.1.4. Not more than 2 grams of GHB for immediate consumption

In keeping with Colorado's desire not to punish addicts too harshly, it is “only” a Colorado level 4 drug felony if:

  • The violation for GHB sale or possession for sale was for the purpose of consuming all of the GHB with another person or persons at a time substantially contemporaneous with the transfer; and 
  • The distribution or transfer involved not more than 2 grams of GHB.6

Penalties for GHB sale or possession for sale as a Colorado level 4 drug felony can include:

  • Incarceration of 6 months to one year (with 1 year mandatory parole), and/or
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000, plus
  • A drug offender surcharge of $1,500.

You may also qualify for a deferred sentence and Colorado “wobbler” drug sentencing. If you qualify and wish to enter this program, the court will delay imposition of your sentence and place you on probation while you attend drug treatment and counseling. Provided you successfully complete treatment and do not violate the terms and conditions of your probation, the court will reduce your felony to a misdemeanor controlled substances possession charge.

If you are subject to Colorado's aggravated sentencing range for drug felonies, however, you face 1-2 years in prison.

5. Defending Colorado GHB charges

There is no one best defense to Colorado GHB charges. The best approach for you depends on the specific charges and the facts of your case.

But some common defenses to Colorado GHB charges frequently include (without limitation):

  • The GHB belonged to someone else;
  • You didn't know you possessed the GHB;
  • You knew you had the GHB but you didn't know what it was and didn't know of its nature as a controlled substance;
  • The GHB was for your personal use;
  • The police found only trace amounts of GHB;
  • There wasn't as much GHB as the prosecutor says there was (partial defense);
  • The drugs were discovered as the result of a Colorado illegal search and seizure;
  • There was other police misconduct (coerced confession, false evidence, failure to read you your rights, etc.).
call center receptionist

If you or someone you know has been charged with GHB use, possession, possession for sale or sale and you are looking for the best Colorado drug defense lawyers available, you've come to the right place. We will fight aggressively to get your GHB case dismissed or the charges against you reduced -- either by fighting the evidence or arguing in favor of treatment instead of jail or prison time.

Don't get branded a drug felon and face the loss of your freedom and constitutional rights. Contact us for a free consultation and find out why we are considered some of the best GHB defense lawyers in Colorado.

You can reach us through the confidential form on this page or by calling us at our convenient Denver home office:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
1400 16th Street
16 Market Square
Denver CO 80202
720-955-6112


Legal references:

  1. 18-18-203 (2)(f) C.R.S.
  2. 18-1.3-401.5 (2)(b)(V) C.R.S.
  3. 18-18-405 (2)(a) C.R.S.
  4. 18-18-405 (2)(b) C.R.S.
  5. 18-18-405 (2)(c) C.R.S.
  6. 18-18-405 (2)(d) C.R.S.

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