The Law Around Cannabis
Colorado law has strict rules about the use of recreational drugs and enforces harsh penalties for those found offending. Keep reading to learn about Colorado’s laws surrounding drugs, the types of charges you can face, and the penalties for convictions.
It is commonly thought that cannabis is completely legal in Colorado; however, there are still rules surrounding use of the drug.
The private use of cannabis is permitted by Colorado’s constitutional Amendment 64; however, public cannabis consumption is still deemed illegal. The “open and public display, consumption, or use” of two ounces or less is a drug petty offense, and the open, public use of more than two ounces is deemed to be possession. This applies to all methods of cannabis consumption, including edibles and concentrates.
Those over the age of 21 are allowed to possess 28 grams (one ounce) of cannabis, but any more is considered a crime. Possession of any amount of non-medical cannabis under the age of 21 is also a crime. Possession is also prohibited on federal property, including but not limited to national parks, airports, courthouses, HUD housing, and post offices.
Illegal Drug Classifications
The federal government has placed the remaining drugs into schedules based on the likelihood of abuse of the drug. There are five schedules, with Schedule V being the least controlled and Schedule I being the most controlled. They are as follows:
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 I drugs Include heroin and hallucinogens such as LSD, PCP, psilocybin (magic mushrooms), mescaline, and peyote.
Drugs with a high potential for abuse but that offer some sort of redeeming medical value. If abused, they can result in psychological and physical dependence on the drug. 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.
Drugs with lesser abuse potential than Schedule I or II drugs and have an accepted medical use but can lead to moderate physical dependence and high psychological dependence. Schedule III drugs include barbiturates, ketamine, anabolic steroids, and medications including small amounts of codeine.
Drugs with a lower potential for abuse than Schedule III drugs and that have an acceptable medical use but may lead to limited psychological and physical dependence. These drugs are typically prescription products that have a high street value and a large amount of user abuse. Schedule IV drugs include Xanax, Valium, Soma, and Ambien.
Drugs with the lowest potential for abuse and that have a currently accepted medical use. They contain limited quantities of certain narcotics. Schedule V drugs include over-the-counter cough syrups and cold medications containing small amounts of codeine.
Drug-Related Charges and Penalties
In Colorado, drug charges generally fall into one of the following three categories: petty offenses, misdemeanors, and felonies. The penalties depend on the offense itself, the type (schedule) of drug, and the quantity of drug involved. These offenses are sorted into categories, and Colorado’s criminal justice system has seven separate classes of drug crimes. From most serious to least serious, they are the following:
- Level 1 drug felonies
- Level 2 drug felonies
- Level 3 drug felonies
- Level 4 drug felonies
- Level 1 drug misdemeanors
- Level 2 drug misdemeanors
- Drug petty offenses
In Colorado, drug use and drug possession are usually charged as a misdemeanor. There are limitations on this, however, and you will be charged with a felony if the offense involves four grams or more of Schedule I or II drugs or any amount of GHB, Ketamine, or flunitrazepam. Drug offenders may not always find themselves serving jail time, as Colorado offers other alternatives focused on treatment and recovery of the offender. These options include specialized drug courts, help with mental health issues, and deferral of sentencing for those who plead guilty to Colorado drug offenses.
If the offense includes the sale, distribution or manufacture of a controlled substance, you may be charged with a felony. Penalties for drug-related felonies can range from jail time to large fines. A number of factors are taken into account when charging drug felonies in Colorado, including the schedule on which the drug is listed (the more serious the drug, the more serious the sentence); the quantity of drugs involved; and whether the drugs were for personal use, sale, or large-scale distribution. It is also considered whether you are a habitual drug offender or have a history of drug convictions and whether you are on probation, on parole, or currently incarcerated for a felony offense.
It must be remembered that Colorado law is very favorable to those ultimately convicted of drug felonies and offers the opportunity to have the felony conviction vacated (canceled) by the court if the person successfully completes a community-based (non-prison) sentence. This opportunity applies to many, but not all, drug felonies. Once again, criminal history is taken into account. For example, if you have a prior conviction for a “crime of violence” or if you have two prior drug felony convictions, you would not be eligible in your new case for this type of relief.
The amount of drugs involved in your case is also a factor. For example, possession of two (2) grams or less of methamphetamine or heroin would qualify, whereas possession of more than two (2) grams would not. The rules of eligibility are complicated, and it can be difficult to know whether your case would qualify.
Schedule a Consultation With Colorado Drug Crime Defense Attorney Patrick F. Welsh
If you or someone you know has been arrested for breaking Colorado drug laws, let us help you. Here at Welsh Law, LLC, our Colorado defense attorney can assist with drug-related charges. Call us at (720) 836-1777 for a free 30-minute consultation with our experienced criminal defense lawyer.