Colorado Cocaine Laws

pile of white cocaine powder

Use, possession or sale of cocaine in Colorado

Colorado law on controlled substances makes it a crime to knowingly use, possess, or sell cocaine.

Cocaine is a Colorado and federal Schedule II drug. This means that according to the government, it has a high potential for abuse, restricted medical use, and the potential for severe psychological or physical dependence.

Using cocaine is a misdemeanor, while possessing or selling it is a felony.

However, there are numerous defenses to these crimes, including (without limitation):

  • The cocaine wasn't yours,
  • You didn't know that what you possessed (or used) was a controlled substance, or
  • The cocaine was discovered during an illegal search or seizure.

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

1. Unlawful use of cocaine --- Colorado 18-18-404 C.R.S.

Using cocaine is a misdemeanor under Section 18-18-404 of the Colorado Revised Statutes.

Although cocaine is occasionally used in hospitals or medical/surgical centers, such use is rare and is legal only when done under the supervision of an authorized medical practitioner.

1.1. Penalty for unlawful use of cocaine

The unlawful use of cocaine is a Colorado level 2 drug misdemeanor.

Before March 1, 2020, the penalty is a potential fine of $50-$750 and up to 12 months in jail. Alternatively, if it is your first drug offense, you may be eligible for drug treatment and dismissal of your misdemeanor drug charges upon successful completion.

Starting March 1, 2020, the punishment is:

  • Probation of up to 1 year;
  • Possibly 120 days in jail; and
  • Up to $500

But for a 3rd or subsequent offense, up to 180 days in jail.

However, if you possess the cocaine you use (as opposed to being given it by someone else), you risk being charged with unlawful possession, a more serious crime.

2. Simple possession of cocaine -- Colorado 18-18-403.5 C.R.S.

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

2.1. Penalties for simple possession of cocaine

Punishment for knowingly possessing cocaine in Colorado will often include:

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

However, unless you are ineligible for probation under 18-1.3-201 C.R.S., the court may place you on probation and defer your sentence to allow you to complete drug assessment and treatment. If you successfully comply with any court-imposed conditions and complete drug treatment, your felony charges will be reduced to a misdemeanor possession charge.

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

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

Note that you are not eligible for probation or for a fine in lieu of imprisonment, community corrections, or work release if you have two or more prior convictions for a felony under the laws of Colorado or any other state or for a violation of federal law.1 You are also subject to mandatory prison time if you are subject to Colorado's aggravated drug sentencing (discussed in section 4, below).

3. Unlawful sale or possession for sale of cocaine -- Colorado 18-18-405 C.R.S

Unless you are authorized by law to do so, it is a crime under 18-18-405 C.R.S. to sell, manufacture, distribute or dispense cocaine, or to possess cocaine with the intent to sell it.

It is also a violation of this section 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 a controlled substance.

3.1. Penalties for sale of cocaine or possession with intent to sell

Sale and possession with intent to sell are felony crimes in Colorado. Penalties for the sale of cocaine or possession with intent to sell it depend on the amount of cocaine involved.

3.1.1. More than 225 grams or sale to a minor

At its most serious, the sale of cocaine is a Colorado level 1 drug felony that subjects you to a mandatory prison sentence. You will be charged with a level 1 drug felony for cocaine sale or possession for sale if:

  • The material, compound, mixture, or preparation involved contains cocaine and 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 cocaine (or any material, compound, mixture, or preparation that contains cocaine) to a minor who is at least two years younger than you.2

Punishment for a Colorado level 1 drug felony can include:

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

The mandatory minimum sentence increases to 12 years, however, if you are subject to Colorado's aggravated felony drug sentencing.

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

You commit a Colorado level 2 drug felony if you sell or possess for sale any material, compound, mixture, or preparation containing cocaine that weighs more than fourteen grams, but not more than two hundred twenty-five grams.3

Consequences of a Colorado level 2 cocaine felony can include:

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

Or, if you are subject to Colorado's aggravated sentencing range, 8-16 years in prison.

3.1.3. 14 grams or less

You commit a Colorado level 3 drug felony if you sell or possess for sale any material, compound, mixture, or preparation containing cocaine that weighs not more than fourteen grams.4

As a Colorado level 3 drug felony, consequences of cocaine sale or possession for sale can include:

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

Or, if you are sentenced in the aggravated range for a level 3 drug felony, the possible prison sentence for selling cocaine or possessing cocaine for sale increases to 4-6 years.

3.1.4. 4 grams or less for immediate personal use

You commit a Colorado level 4 drug felony if:

The violation involves the distribution or transfer of cocaine for the purpose of consuming all of the cocaine with another person or persons at a time substantially contemporaneous with the transfer; and the distribution or transfer involves not more than four grams of cocaine.5

Punishment for a conviction 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.

If you are subject to aggravated sentencing, however, you face potential punishment of 1-2 years in prison.

4. Colorado aggravated drug sentencing

You face additional prison time for Colorado cocaine possession, sale or possession for sale if you are subject to Colorado's aggravated sentencing for felony drug offenses.

Colorado aggravated sentencing for drug felonies applies to people who are incarcerated, or on parole or had probation revoked for a prior felony at the time of their cocaine offense.

For a more complete listing of circumstances that can subject you to increased prison time for cocaine charges, please click here to see our article on Colorado's aggravated drug sentencing.

5. Defending Colorado cocaine charges

The best defense to Colorado cocaine charges depends on the facts of your case and which crime you were charged with. However, common defenses to Colorado cocaine charges often include (but are not limited to):

  • The coke wasn't yours and you had no control over it;
  • A drug test violated your constitutional rights;
  • Your drug test results were unreliable;
  • You didn't know you possessed the cocaine;
  • You knew you possessed the cocaine but you thought it was something innocent;
  • The police found only trace amounts of cocaine;
  • There was less cocaine than the prosecutor charged (partial defense);
  • You transferred a small quantity of cocaine to a friend solely so you could do it together;
  • The coke was discovered during an illegal search in violation of your rights under the Fourth Amendment; or 
  • The police failed to read you your Miranda rights or engaged in other misconduct (such as planting evidence or coercing your confession).

Call us for help…

Colorado is not really looking to punish people who possess small quantities of cocaine for personal use. However, Colorado judges have wide discretion when it comes to sentencing those who violate Colorado drug laws and they are known to hand down long sentences to people convicted of sale or possession for sale.

If you or someone you know has been accused of unlawful cocaine sale or possession, our Colorado drug defense attorneys will fight aggressively to get evidence against you excluded.

And if what you need is treatment instead of incarceration, we will argue your case to the prosecutor and the judge and so that you can get the help you need.

Conviction of felony cocaine charges can cost you more than your freedom. It can make it difficult to get a job and impossible to exercise rights we take for granted – such as the right to own a gun.

Don't let an innocent mistake take your rights away from you. Contact us for a free consultation and find out why we are considered some of the best cocaine defense lawyers in Colorado.

For the fastest response, simply fill out the confidential form on this page. Or call us at our centrally located Denver office:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
4047 Tejon Street
Denver CO 80211
(303) 222-0330

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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