Colorado Criminal Drug Laws

young man with pills, a hypodermic needle and the word "drugs" spelled out in white powder

Colorado drug possession, sales and manufacturing

Colorado drug laws are among the most intricate and confusing in the nation.

That's where we come in. Our compassionate Colorado criminal defense lawyers are some of the most knowledgeable and best drug lawyers in Colorado.

If you have been arrested on Colorado drug possession, manufacturing or sales charges, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.

We know that innocent people are often arrested on Colorado drug offenses, or hit with more serious charges than their offense warrants. Or maybe you just made a mistake – and what you need is treatment, not jail.

marijuana joint

1. What drugs are legal in Colorado?

Colorado has legalized the possession of small quantities of marijuana by those aged 21 and over. However, possession of more than 28 grams (one ounce) of marijuana – or any amount by people under 21 (other than medical marijuana) -- is a crime in Colorado. You can obtain more information about both medical and retail marijuana in our article on Colorado Marijuana Laws or from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's marijuana information page.

Marijuana possession is also illegal on federally owned property within the state of Colorado, which is subject to the more stringent requirements of 21 USC 812 -- the federal Controlled Substances Act. Federal property includes National Parks, airports, courthouses, the Veteran's Administration, HUD housing and post offices.

2. What drugs are illegal in Colorado?

Colorado divides controlled substances into five “schedules” according to the drug's likelihood for abuse. There is also a separate schedule that applies to Colorado possession of synthetic cannabinoids and salvia.

Colorado drug schedules are:

  • Schedule I: drugs with a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, or those that are unsafe for use in treatment, even under medical supervision. Schedule 1 drugs include heroin and hallucinogens such as LSD, PCP, psilocybin (magic mushrooms), mescaline and peyote.1
  • Schedule II: drugs with a high potential for abuse, but which have an accepted medical use and can result in severe psychological and physical dependence if abused. Schedule II drugs include opium and prescription opioid pain pills such as oxycodone (Oxycontin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, fentanyl and methadone, as well as stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamines.2
  • Schedule III: drugs with a lesser abuse potential than Schedule I or II drugs, and which have an accepted medical use, but which can lead to low or moderate physical dependence and high psychological dependence. Schedule III drugs include: barbiturates, ketamine, anabolic steroids, and medications including small amounts of codeine.3
  • Schedule IV : drugs with a lower potential for abuse than Schedule III drugs, and which have an acceptable medical use, but may lead to limited psychological and physical dependence. They include prescription anti-anxiety medications such as diazepam (valium) and non-barbiturate sleep medications such as zolpidem (Ambien).4
  • Schedule V: the least dangerous drugs, with the lowest potential for abuse, a currently accepted medical use, and which are likely to lead to only limited physical or psychological dependence. Schedule V drugs include: medicines that have very small amounts of certain specified narcotic drugs – for example, over-the-counter cough syrups and cold medications containing small amounts of codeine.5

3. Colorado drug penalties

Colorado drug laws favor treatment over imprisonment when it comes to personal use – at least initially.

As a result, unlawful possession of small quantities of all but the most serious controlled substances is usually a misdemeanor.6

When the drugs are serious narcotics, or the offense is sales and/or manufacturing, you may find yourself charged with a felony. Penalties for Colorado felony drug offenses can include both prison time and hefty fines, depending on a number of factors including:

  • The “schedule” on which the drug is listed (the more serious the drug, the more serious the sentence),
  • The quantity of drugs involved,
  • Whether the drugs were for personal use, sale, or large-scale distribution,
  • Whether you are a habitual drug offender or have a history of drug convictions, and
  • Whether you are on probation, on parole, or incarcerated for a felony offense.

At the low end, consequences of Colorado felony drug charges can be as little as six months in jail and/or a fine of $1,000.

But the most serious Colorado drug offenses can carry a sentence of up to 32 years in prison and up to $1,000,000 in fines.

For more information you may wish to visit our pages on:

4. Call us for help…

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If you or someone you know has been arrested on Colorado drug charges, let us help. Don't take a chance on being labeled a drug offender and losing your rights and freedom.

We offer free consultations by telephone, in-person, or via email. Reach out to us using the form on this page or, if you prefer, contact us at our Denver home office:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
1400 16th Street
16 Market Square
Denver CO 80202

Legal references:

  1. 18-18-203, C.R.S.
  2. 18–18–204, C.R.S.
  3. 18-18-205, C.R.S.
  4. 18-18-206, C.R.S.
  5. 18-18-207, C.R.S.
  6. See 18–18–403.5, C.R.S.

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