Drugging Someone With GHB or Ketamine
(Colorado 18-13-123 C.R.S.)

well-dressed man and woman drinking wine and getting intimate

Giving someone ketamine or GHB without their consent

Colorado 18-13-123 C.R.S. makes it a felony to knowingly administer GHB or ketamine to someone without that person's consent.

A first-time violation of 18-13-123 C.R.S. can be punished by:

  • Up to 4 years in prison, and/or
  • A fine of up to $500,000.

However, the prosecutor must prove that you knew you possessed GHB or ketamine and that you knowingly or intentionally gave it someone without that person's consent. As a result there are many ways to defend charges of unlawfully drugging someone with ketamine or GHB in Colorado.

To help you better understand Colorado's law against unlawfully administering GHB or ketamine, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:

Xyrem (GHB) box, bottles, mixing bottles, syringe and instructions
XYREM® (sodium oxybate) is the only legal form of GHB in the United States

1. What is GHB?

GHB or Gamma Hydroxybutyrate is a central nervous system depressant primarily used to treat narcolepsy, a disorder in which people fall asleep frequently during the day, often at unexpected times. Other legitimate uses of GHB include weight loss, muscle building, and relief of  fibromyalgia symptoms such as pain, fatigue, and sleep problems. Drug addicts and alcoholics may also use GHB to help them manage withdrawal symptoms.

GHB is used recreationally to cause or enhance sexual arousal. Thus GHB is sometimes referred to as a “club drug,” “party drug,” or “date rape” drug.

GHB is legally sold by prescription only under the brand name Xyrem (sodium oxybate). It is classified as a Colorado Schedule 1 drug and its use is strictly regulated.

Dangers associated with GHB can include loss of consciousness, nausea, auditory and visual hallucinations, headaches, vomiting, exhaustion, sluggishness, amnesia, confusion, and clumsiness.

GHB is colorless and odorless, although it may have a soapy or salty taste, which is usually masked by alcohol. Because of this quality and the fact that GHB lowers inhibitions and can cause loss of consciousness, it is sometimes used to facilitate “date rapes.”

2. What is ketamine?

Bottle of liquid ketamine and pile of ketamine in form of white powder
Ketamine in liquid and powder form

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic often use in veterinary medicine. It is sometimes referred to as "K," "special K," "vitamin K," or "cat valium."

Ketamine is sold commercially and is produced in liquid, powder, and tablet forms. The liquid form can be injected intramuscularly while the powdered form is often snorted or smoked with marijuana or tobacco products. Because it is sold as a white powder, it is easily mistaken for cocaine or methamphetamine.

Like GHB, ketamine is odorless and tasteless when added to alcoholic drinks. As a result, it too is sometimes used as a “date rape” drug.

Effects and side effects of ketamine can include impaired attention, disassociation, hallucinations, extreme dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, amnesia, nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, impaired motor function, high blood pressure, depression, double vision, black-outs, delirium, amnesia, and potentially fatal respiratory problems.

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, at high doses ketamine can cause reactions similar to PCP. As a result of that and the increasing use of ketamine and GHB in Colorado, the Department of Justice considers ketamine and GHB dangerous drugs.

3. What does 18-13-123 C.R.S. prohibit?

Section 18-13-123 C.R.S. of the Colorado Criminal Code makes it a crime to knowingly cause or attempt to cause any other person to unknowingly consume or receive the direct administration of gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) or ketamine or the immediate chemical precursors or chemical analogs for either of such substances.

The exception is if the drugs are distributed or dispensed for bona fide medical needs by or under the direction of:

  • a person licensed or authorized by law to prescribe, administer, or dispense such substances, or
  • a humane society that is duly registered with the secretary of state and has been in existence and in business for at least five years in this state as a nonprofit corporation or by an animal control agency that is operated by a unit of government to control animals and to euthanize injured, sick, homeless, or unwanted pets or animals if the humane society or animal control agency is registered pursuant to 12-42.5-117(12) C.R.S.

4. Penalties for unlawfully administering GHB or ketamine

A first-time violation for drugging someone with GHB or ketamine is a Colorado class 3 felony. Punishment for unlawfully administering GHB or ketamine can include:

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

However, drugging someone with ketamine or GHB becomes a Colorado class 2 felony if you have a prior conviction for:

  • Unlawfully administering ketamine, GHB or a precursor under 18-13-123 C.R.S., or
  • Unlawfully distributing, manufacturing, dispensing, or selling GHB or ketamine under 18-18-405 C.R.S. (or their immediate chemical precursors or chemical analogs).

As a Colorado class 2 drug felony, the consequences of drugging someone with ketamine or GHB can include:

  • 4-8 years in prison (with 2 years mandatory parole), and/or
  • $3,000-$750,000 in fines.

However, even this prison sentence can increase if you are subject to Colorado's aggravated sentencing for drug felonies – if, for instance, you are on parole or are serving time for a felony.

For more information on the increased sentencing range, please see our article on Colorado aggravated sentencing for drug felonies.

two young men and two young women partying

5. Defenses to drugging someone with GHB or ketamine

While there are many ways to defend charges under 18-13-123 C.R.S., some of the more common defenses include (but are not limited to):

  • The person you gave the drugs to consented.
  • Example: Dave and Ernie are going to the Westword Music Showcase in Denver. They put some vodka and GHB in plastic water bottles to drink at the show. During the show, they meet a cute girl and offer to share their vodka/GHB with her. But the girl passes out, and later accuses Dave and Ernie of drugging her. The following day they are arrested on suspicion of drugging the girl under 18-13-123 C.R.S. However, since the girl consented to drinking the GHB-laced drink, Dave and Ernie's lawyer should be able to get the charges reduced to simple possession of a controlled substance under Colorado 18-18-403.5 C.R.S.
  • You didn't know that what you possessed was an illegal substance.
  • Example: In the scenario set forth above, let's say Dave tells Ernie he is going to put some vodka in plastic water bottles, but doesn't tell Ernie that he is adding GHB. At the show, Ernie shares what he thinks is vodka with the girl and she passes out. However, since Ernie legitimately thought he was giving the girl plain vodka, he has a defense to the 18-13-123 C.R.S. charges.
  • You didn't intentionally or knowingly drug anyone.
  • Example: Let's say, instead, that it's Dave who meets the girl. She sees what she thinks is bottled water and, while Dave's attention is diverted, takes one of the bottles and starts drinking from it. After she gets sick, Dave is charged with unlawfully administering her GHB. However, since he didn't knowingly or intentionally give it to her, Dave, too has a defense to the charges.
  • The drugs were found during an illegal search and seizure.
  • Example: Let's say Dave and Ernie refuse to share their “water” with a girl they meet. So she gets back at them by telling venue security that Dave and Ernie have illegal drugs. Dave and Ernie cooperate fully, but the cops are called and the guys are arrested, even though the girl has disappeared. When the cops search Dave and Ernie, they find the bottles and take them.

However, because the cops had no real basis to suspect Dave and Ernie of committing a crime, the arrest may have been illegal. And if the arrest was illegal, the search was illegal, too. An experienced Colorado defense lawyer should be able to get the case thrown out, or the charges reduced to simple possession of a controlled substance under Colorado 18-18-403.5 C.R.S.

  • You are a healthcare professional or humane society entitled under Colorado law to administer GHB or ketamine.

Authorized health care officials and humane society personnel who use GHB and ketamine in accordance with Colorado law may have a defense to charges of unlawfully administering these drugs if they were using them properly at the time of the alleged offense. An experienced Colorado drug defense lawyer can help determine whether you fall into this exception.

Call us for help... 

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Colorado's GHB laws and Colorado's ketamine laws are fairly lenient when it comes to knowing use of these substances.

However, Colorado takes charges of drugging other people without their consent quite seriously, especially when a violation of Colorado's sexual assault law, 18-3-402 C.R.S., occurs. But even when it doesn't, people who use and share GHB or ketamine can find themselves facing a lengthy prison sentence – even if all they were doing was partying.

If you or someone you know has been accused of unlawfully administering GHB or ketamine, or a violation of any other Colorado drug laws, we invite you to call us for a free consultation.

Our caring Colorado drug lawyers know that Colorado drug charges are seldom as cut and dried as the police try to make them. We will take the time to listen to your story and make sure that the cops, the prosecutor and, if necessary, the jury understand your side of things.

To schedule your free consultation, simply fill out the confidential form on this page and one of our experienced Colorado defense attorneys will get back to you promptly.
Or you can call us at our Denver home office:

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

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