Colorado Laws on Ecstasy (a/k/a Molly or MDMA)

hands of people exchanging cash for baggie of white pills

Colorado laws on ecstasy use, possession, sale and manufacture

Possession of ecstasy is a felony in Colorado. Ecstasy – also known as MDMA or Molly -- is the most common nickname for 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, a synthetic drug frequently used at raves and nightclubs. Ecstasy's popularity is due in large part to its ready availability and the feelings of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth, and distorted sensory and time perception it creates in users.

However, ecstasy is also a commonly abused drug with no accepted medical purpose in the United States. As a result, ecstasy is classified as a Colorado Schedule I controlled substance – the strictest drug classification possible.

Colorado ecstasy penalties

Penalties for possessing any amount of ecstasy in Colorado can include:

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

And selling or manufacturing ecstasy or possessing it with intent to sell it can land you in jail or prison for anywhere from 6 months to 32 years, depending on the quantity:



> 225 grams

8 – 32 years

> 14 grams, but < 225 grams

4 – 8 years

≤ 14 grams

2 – 4 years

≤ 4 grams*

6 mos. – 1 yr.

*If intended for immediate use

  by transferor & transferee


You can also be punished by 8-32 years in prison if you sell or intend to sell any quantity of MDMA to a minor who is two years or more younger than you.

Drug treatment instead of prison

If you are charged with simple possession, or with giving not more than 4 grams of ecstasy to others for you to share with them more or less simultaneously, you may be eligible for drug treatment instead of a fine and/or incarceration. You must have no more than one prior drug felony on your record (including any felonies reduced to misdemeanors) and you must be otherwise eligible for probation.

Upon successful completion of drug treatment, your felony MDMA charge will be reduced to a misdemeanor. It will not be considered a felony for most purposes – including, importantly, on applications for most jobs.

Defending Colorado ecstasy charges

Possession of even one pill containing MDMA can lead to a felony drug conviction. As a result, it is important to fight ecstasy charges vigorously from the moment you are arrested. This is especially true if you have been charged with selling or intending to sell ecstasy.

Fortunately, a skilled Colorado drug defense lawyer has a lot of tools to help you fight the charges. While not an exhaustive list, common defenses to ecstasy possession or sales charges often include:

  • The ecstasy wasn't yours;
  • You didn't know you possessed the ecstasy;
  • You knew you had the pills, but you thought they were something innocent (like headache or diet pills);
  • The drugs were for your personal use, not for sale;
  • The ecstasy was found during an illegal search and seizure; or
  • The police engaged in misconduct (such as entrapment, coercing your confession or falsifying evidence).

To help you better understand Colorado's laws on MDMA use, possession, manufacture and sales, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss, below:

people partying at a nightclub with bright yellow light in the background

1. What is ecstasy?

Ecstasy is a street name for the synthetic drug properly known as 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA). It is also referred to as Molly (slang for "molecular"), in reference to the supposedly "pure" crystalline powder form of MDMA, usually sold in capsules. However, powder or capsules sold as Molly often contain other drugs such as synthetic cathinones ("bath salts") instead.

As its chemical name indicates, MDMA is related to methamphetamine. However, MDMA also has tranquilizing and hallucinogenic qualities. As a result, it produces feelings of increased energy, pleasure, sexual arousal and emotional warmth, as well as distorted sensory and time perception.

MDMA is usually swallowed as a capsule or tablet, though it occasionally appears in liquid form. Some people crush the pills and snort the powder.

The effects of MDMA are short acting, usually wearing off after 3-6 hours. As a result, many users take a second dose once the effects of the first dose begin to fade.

However, ecstasy often has undesirable effects, including (without limitation):

  • nausea,
  • muscle cramping,
  • involuntary teeth clenching,
  • blurred vision,
  • chills,
  • sweating, and
  • risky sexual behavior.

In addition, following even moderate use of MDMA, users may experience:

  • irritability,
  • impulsiveness and aggression,
  • depression,
  • difficulty sleeping,
  • anxiety,
  • memory and attention problems,
  • decreased appetite, and
  • decreased interest in and pleasure from sex.

These effects may enhanced when MDMA is combined with other drugs such as marijuana. At high doses, ecstasy can also negatively affect the body's ability to regulate temperature. These resulting spikes in body temperature can, in severe cases, cause liver, kidney, or heart failure or even death.

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

As a Schedule 1 drug, MDMA has no legally accepted use in the United States and is, therefore, entirely illegal.

Colorado is more interested, however, in preventing drug abuse than in punishing users. Accordingly, use of ecstasy is a Colorado level 2 drug misdemeanor rather than a felony.

2.1. Penalty for unlawful use of ecstasy

Under Section 18-18-404 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, there is no jail time for unlawfully using ecstasy. The sole penalty is a fine of $50-$750.

However, if you possess the ecstasy (as opposed to being given it by someone else), you face prosecution for unlawful possession of MDMA, 

3. Possession of ecstasy -- 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 ecstasy.

You knowingly possess ecstasy when you are aware that you have it and you know that what you have is a controlled substance -- even if you aren't sure exactly what it is or what its name is.

However, ecstasy possession is a so-called Colorado "wobbler" offense. A "wobbler" is an offense which you can be convicted of as either a felony or a misdemeanor. In the case of MDMA possession, the difference depends on whether you are eligible for and choose to undergo drug treatment.

3.1. Penalties for possession of ecstasy

As a felony, the consequences of ecstasy possession in Colorado can include:

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

However, unless you are ineligible for probation under 18-1.3-201 C.R.S., the court in most cases must offer to defer your sentence and place you probation while you undergo drug treatment.

If you successfully complete the program and do not violate the conditions of your probation, your charges will be reduced to misdemeanor possession, punishable by a fine.

Terms and conditions of probation the court may impose can include:

  • No drug use without a doctor's prescription or advice (and no medical marijuana use regardless); 
  • Regular attendance at, and completion of, a court-approved drug treatment program;
  • No commission of any crimes while on probation; and/or
  • Anything else the court deems in your and the public's best interests including, if applicable, domestic violence restraints.

You are not eligible for probation and must be sentenced to incarceration, however, if you have ever been convicted of a crime of violence or of two or more prior convictions for a drug 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.[1]

And finally, if you are subject to Colorado's aggravating drug felony sentencing, the court must sentence you to at least 9 months incarceration, with a maximum sentence of 2 years. Among the reasons you might be subjected to aggravated sentencing are if you were incarcerated or on parole for a felony at the time of your arrest on ecstasy charges.

For a more complete discussion of these and other factors, please see our article on Colorado's aggravated felony drug sentencing.

4. Unlawful sale, manufacture or possession for sale of ecstasy -- Colorado 18-18-405 C.R.S

18-18-405 C.R.S. makes it a felony to sell, manufacture, distribute, or dispense ecstasy or to possess it for sale. It also makes it a felony to induce, attempt to induce, or conspire with one or more other persons to do any of the foregoing, or to possess one or more chemicals or supplies or equipment with the intent to manufacture ecstasy.

4.1. Penalties for sale, manufacture or possession for sale of ecstasy

Consequences of selling, manufacturing or possessing ecstasy for sale depend on:

  • The quantity of ecstasy involved, and
  • The age of the person you sell or intend to sell to.

4.1.1. More than 225 grams or sale to a minor

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

  • Any material, compound, mixture, or preparation containing ecstasy weighs more than 225 grams (just under 8 ounces), or
  • You are an adult and you sell, dispense, distribute, or otherwise transfer any quantity of ecstasy (or any material, compound, mixture, or preparation that contains ecstasy) to a minor who is at least two years younger than you.[2]

Consequences of a Colorado level 1 ecstasy 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 $4,500 drug offender surcharge.

If, however, you are subject to Colorado's aggravated felony drug sentencing, penalties include a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 12 years.

4.1.2. More than 14 grams, but less than 225 grams

The sale, manufacture or possession for sale of ecstasy is a Colorado level 2 drug felony when the amount of ecstasy involved weighs more than 7 grams, but not more than 112 grams.[3]

As a Colorado level 2 drug felony, ecstasy sale, manufacture 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.

Those subject to Colorado's aggravated sentencing range must receive 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 14 grams

You commit a level 3 drug felony when you sell, manufacture or possess for sale any material, compound, mixture, or preparation containing ecstasy and weighing not more than 7 grams.[4]

Consequences of a level 3 drug felony involving ecstasy 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. 4 grams or less for immediate personal use

You commit a Colorado level 4 drug felony when:

  • You sell or give ecstasy to someone else for the purpose of consuming all of the ecstasy with another person or other persons at a time substantially contemporaneous with the transfer; and 
  • The transfer involved not more than 4 grams of ecstasy.

Punishment for 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.

If you are charged with transfer of ecstasy as a level 4 drug felony, you may be eligible for probation and drug treatment, as described in Section 3.1., above. However, those subject to Colorado's aggravated drug felony sentencing range face 1-2 years in prison.

5. Defending Colorado ecstasy charges

There is no single best defense to Colorado ecstasy charges. The best Colorado drug lawyers look at the facts of your case and work with you to determine the optimal approach to fighting your Colorado MDMA charges.

However, common defenses to Colorado ecstasy charges can include (without limitation):

  • The ecstasy belonged to someone else;
  • You didn't know you possessed the ecstasy;
  • You knew you had some pills or powder, but you didn't know that what you possessed was a controlled substance;
  • The ecstasy was for your personal use alone;
  • The police found only trace amounts of ecstasy (not enough to use as a drug);
  • There wasn't as much ecstasy as the prosecutor says there was (partial defense);
  • The drugs were discovered as the result of a Colorado illegal search and seizure that violated your Fourth Amendment rights;
  • There was other police misconduct (such as a coerced confession, false evidence, failure to read you your rights, etc.).

Call us for help…

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If you have been charged with using, possessing, manufacturing or selling ecstasy or another Colorado controlled substance, our caring Colorado drug defense lawyers are here to help.

We understand how the police and prosecutors put drug cases together. We can tell when they want to prosecute and when they'd rather negotiate. And if what you need is treatment instead of jail or prison time, we will work to see that you get it.

Our approach is to drug cases is aggressive and proactive. Often we find that the police got sloppy and we are able to have evidence excluded, resulting in the dismissal of the case or reduced charges.

You are not just another drug case to us – you are a person. Before you get branded a drug felon and face the loss of your freedom and constitutional rights, we invite you contact us for a free and confidential consultation.

For the quickest response from one of our experienced Colorado drug lawyers, fill out the form on this page or call us at our Denver home office:

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

Legal references:

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

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