Possession of a Controlled Substance in Montana

All states regulate the illegal possession of controlled dangerous substances (CDS), though each differs in its exact definition of CDS and the penalties for possession. Montana classifies not only well-known drugs like marijuana, heroin, and cocaine as CDS, but also the compounds used to manufacture them.

This article discusses illegal CDS possession only. Making or selling CDS carries different penalties. For more information on CDS manufacture and sale, see  Sale of a Controlled Substances in Montana.

Also, while marijuana is considered a CDS, this article does not cover Montana’s marijuana possession and sale laws. To learn more about that topic, see Montana Marijuana Laws.

How Montana Classifies CDS

Montana divides CDS into five “schedules.” Schedule I lists the most dangerous drugs, which have a high probability of abuse and addiction, and no recognized medical value. Schedules II, III, IV, and V decrease in dangerousness and probability of abuse, and increase in recognized medical uses.

These classes are also used to determine the severity of the applicable fines and jail (or prison) time for illegally possessing CDS. If you’ve been arrested for illegal CDS possession, you’ll need to consult the Montana Code that lists precisely which drugs fit into each group.

Penalties for Illegal CDS Possession

It is illegal in Montana to possess CDS without a valid medical prescription. A person convicted of a first violation is presumed to be entitled to deferred imposition of the otherwise applicable prison sentence (described below). This means that the judge will place the defendant on probation for a certain time period and with certain conditions. Upon successful completion, the defendant’s prison sentence will be suspended. However, at the judge’s discretion, the following penalties may nonetheless be imposed without deferral, especially when the violation involved large amounts or especially dangerous CDS. (Mt. Code Ann. § 45-9-102(7).)

Anabolic steroids

Possessing anabolic steroids is punishable with a fine of at least $100 (and up to $500), up to six months in jail, or both. (Mt. Code Ann. § 45-9-102(3).)


Possessing opiates is punishable with a fine of up to $50,000, at least two (and up to five) years in prison, or both. (Mt. Code Ann. § 45-9-102(4).)

Other CDS              

Possessing any other CDS (excluding marijuana) is punishable with a fine of up to $50,000, up to five years in prison, or both. (Mt. Code Ann. § 45-9-102(6).)

Second and subsequent convictions for possessing methamphetamine incur a fine of up to $50,000, at least three (and up to five) years in prison, or both. However, the judge may allow the defendant to take part in a residential methamphetamine treatment program during the first three years of the prison sentence; upon successful completion, the judge will suspend the remainder of the defendant’s prison sentence. (Mt. Code Ann. § 45-9-102(5)(a).)

Talk to an Attorney

Illegally possessing CDS incurs both heavy fines and long periods of incarceration. A local lawyer who practices CDS defense will review the facts of your case, explain your options, and advise you of the possible consequences.

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