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Colorado law makes it a misdemeanor to possess or use either synthetic cannabinoids or Salvia divinorum and a felony to sell or manufacture them.
Simple possession can be punished by a fine of up to $750. Manufacturing or selling synthetic marijuana or salvia can land you in prison for up to 4 years – longer if you sell it to a minor or you are on parole for a felony.
To help you better understand Colorado’s law on imitation marijuana, our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:
Synthetic cannabinoids are human-made chemicals related to marijuana. Although misleadingly referred to as “synthetic marijuana” or “fake weed”, there is no marijuana in the product.
Synthetic cannabinoids are sold in two forms:
The herbal incense or potpourri form of fake weed usually comes in small foil packets, with names such as “Spice,” “K2,” or “Black Mamba.” The packages are frequently labeled “not for human consumption,” and may contain pictures of cartoon characters or other child-friendly images.
Synthetic cannabinoids are meant to mimic the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. As a result of this similarity, synthetic cannabinoids are often marketed as safe and legal marijuana alternatives.
However, the chemicals used in the production of fake weed are often more potent than the THC occurring naturally in marijuana. They can also have dangerous and often unpredictable side effects, including:
Another product frequently sold as a marijuana alternative is Salvia divinorum, also known as S. divinorum, a psychoactive plant grown in the Sierra Mazatec region of Oaxaca, Mexico. Its leaves contain salvinorin A., a hallucinogen traditionally used during meditation and to facilitate visionary states of consciousness.
The genus name, Salvia, meaning wise, is the same as the herb sage. Divinorum is a corruption of Latin divinatorum, meaning “of the diviners.” Hence S. divionrum is sometimes called “diviner’s sage” or “seer’s sage” or any one of a variety of names connecting the plant to the Virgin Mary.
Typical methods of ingesting S. divinorum include smoking or chewing the leaf, or using a sublingual tincture.
Salvia is a psychedelic drug. Reported effects sometimes include:
Effects can vary from mild to severe, depending on:
It should be noted that some users find the effects of salvia unpleasant, especially in its more potent forms.
Since the beginning of 2012, it has been against the law to use or possess any amount of any synthetic cannabinoid or salvia divinorum in Colorado.
Possessing or using synthetic marijuana or S. divinorum is a Colorado level 2 drug misdemeanor.
Until March 1, 2020, the penalty is $50 – $750 and possibly 12 months in jail.
Starting March 1, 2020, the punishment is:
But for a 3rd or subsequent offense, up to 180 days in jail.
18-18-406.2 C.R.S. makes it a Colorado level 3 drug felony to knowingly:
Penalties under 18-18-406.2 C.R.S. can include:
However, the crime rises to a Colorado level 2 drug felony if you:
As a level 2 drug felony, consequences of the sale or distribution of synthetic marijuana or S. divinorum can include:
And under certain circumstances – such as being on parole for a felony — the consequences of selling, manufacturing or distributing fake week or salvia may include up to 6 years in prison or 16 years for selling to a minor.
For more information on these circumstances, please see our article on Colorado’s aggravated sentencing range for drug felonies.
Because Colorado’s laws on synthetic cannabis and salvia are so new, the courts have not had time to consider all the possible defenses to charges under these laws.
However, common defenses to charges of violating these laws are likely to include:
Salvia divinorum is still legal under U.S. law and the laws of many other states – although this is subject to change at any time.
However, synthetic cannabinoids are illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”), 21 United States Code 811.
Under the CSA, possession of synthetic marijuana for personal use is punished (if at all) by:
Typically, the federal government leaves investigation and prosecution of simple possession and even and small-scale sale to the state. However, the sale of synthetic cannabinoids or possession with intent to sell (collectively, “trafficking”) is a serious federal felony. In particular, people who sell large quantities of synthetic marijuana on the internet face an increased likelihood of prosecution under federal law.
Additionally, the CSA, rather than Colorado law, applies to drug offenses committed on federally owned properties within the state of Colorado. Such properties include:
Under the CSA, the minimum punishment for the trafficking of fake cannabis is:
This is particularly serious as there is no parole in the federal system. If you are convicted of federal drug trafficking, you will serve your entire sentence in a federal prison, less only credits (if any) for good behavior.
If you or someone you know has been charged with violating Colorado’s laws on synthetic marijuana or salvia, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.
To reach one of our caring Colorado defense lawyers, simply fill out the confidential form on this page. Or call us at our Denver home office:
Colorado Legal Defense Group
4047 Tejon Street
Denver CO 80211