Possession of a Controlled Substance in Minnesota

Learn what penalties apply to drug possession crimes in Minnesota.

Like several other states, Minnesota criminalizes the possession of not only well-known drugs like heroin, cocaine, and other controlled substances but also the compounds used to manufacture them.

This article discusses illegal drug possession only. Making or selling controlled substances carries different penalties.

How Minnesota Classifies and Defines Drug Possession Crimes

Minnesota uses schedules (similar to federal drug schedules) to classify drugs by their seriousness and potential for harm and to determine the applicable penalties for illegal possession (described in the next section).

Minnesota Drug Schedules

Minnesota divides unlawful drugs into five categories known as 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. To find a specific controlled substance, check out the schedules found in Minnesota Statute section 152.02.

Defining Drug Possession Crimes

Minnesota makes it illegal to possess a controlled substance without a prescription from a licensed physician. Penalties vary according to the class and amount of the drug and whether the offense involved a firearm or aggravating factor.

Possession. To convict a defendant of unlawful drug possession, the prosecutor must prove the defendant consciously possessed, either physically or "constructively," the controlled substance and knew the nature of the substance. An example of constructive possession would be if the drugs are located in the defendant's glove box of their vehicle or in their bedroom closet.

Aggravating factors. Examples of aggravating factors that increase the severity level or penalty for the offense include the defendant having previous drug-related convictions or the offense occurring in a school or park zone. You can find the complete list of aggravating factors in section 152.01, clause 24.

Penalties for unlawful drug possession in Minnesota range from a petty misdemeanor for possession of a small amount of marijuana to a 40-year felony for aggravated first-degree possession.

Aggravated First-Degree Controlled Substance Crime

Unlawful drug possession is an aggravated first-degree controlled substance crime when:

  • the offense involves 100 or more grams, or 500 or more dosage units of, mixtures containing cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine, and
  • the defendant uses a firearm or two or more aggravating factors exist.

A guilty party faces a minimum of 86 months (a little over seven years) and up to 40 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.

First-Degree Controlled Substance Possession Crime

A person who unlawfully possesses the following types and amounts of controlled substances faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine. Second and subsequent convictions have penalties of four to 40 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine:

  • one or more mixtures containing cocaine or methamphetamine, weighing 50 grams or more (but less than 100 grams)
  • one or more mixtures containing cocaine or methamphetamine, weighing 25 grams or more (but less than 100 grams) and the offense involved a weapon or two aggravating factors
  • one or more mixtures containing heroin weighing 25 grams or more (but less than 100 grams)
  • narcotic drugs (other than cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine ) weighing 500 grams or more
  • hallucinogens, amphetamine, or phencyclidine weighing 500 grams or more or packaged in 500 or more dosage units, or
  • one or more mixtures containing marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols weighing 50 kilograms or more, or 500 or more marijuana plants.

Second-Degree Controlled Substance Possession Crime

Unlawfully possessing the following types and amounts of controlled substances carry penalties of up to 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. For second and subsequent convictions the punishment can be three to 40 years in prison and a $500,000 fine:

  • 25 grams or more (but less than 50 grams) of a mixture containing cocaine or methamphetamine
  • ten grams or more (but less than 25 grams) of a mixture containing cocaine and methamphetamine and the offense involved a weapon or at least three aggravating factors
  • one or more mixtures containing heroin weighing six grams or more (but less than 25 grams)
  • 50 grams or more (but less than 500 grams) of a mixture containing a narcotic drug other than cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine
  • 50 grams or more (but less than 500 grams) of a mixture containing hallucinogens, amphetamine, or phencyclidine, or 100 or more (but less than 500) dosage units, or
  • 25 kilograms or more (but less than 50 kilograms) of a mixture containing marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols, or 100 or more (but less than 500) marijuana plants.

Third-Degree Controlled Substance Possession Crime

A person commits a controlled substance crime in the third degree by possessing, on one or more occasions in a 90-day period, the following types and amounts of unlawful drugs:

  • ten grams or more (but less than 50 grams) of a mixture containing a narcotic drug other than heroin
  • three grams or more (but less than six grams) of a mixture containing heroin
  • one or more mixtures containing a narcotic drug that are packaged in 50 or more (but less than 100) dosage units
  • any amount of a schedule I or II narcotic drug, or five or more dosage units of LSD (or other specified controlled dangerous substances) in a school, park, or public housing zone, or in a drug treatment facility, or
  • ten kilograms or more (but less than 25 grams) of a mixture containing marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols.

A defendant also commits this level of offense when they unlawfully possess one or more mixtures containing meth or amphetamine in a school, park, or public housing zone or drug treatment facility. A guilty party is subject to up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Fourth-Degree Controlled Substance Possession Crime

Possessing the following types and amounts of unlawful controlled substances subjects an offender to up to 15 years in prison and a $100,000 fine:

  • one or more mixtures containing phencyclidine or hallucinogen packaged in ten or more dosage units, or
  • one or more mixtures of a schedule I, II, or III controlled substance (excluding marijuana) with the intent to sell it.

Fifth-Degree Controlled Substance Possession Crime

A conviction for possessing one or more mixtures containing a schedule I, II, III, or IV substance, except a small amount of marijuana, carries penalties of up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. A defendant who uses fraudulent means (such as deceit, misrepresentation, or subterfuge) to obtain a controlled substance also faces these same penalties. Certain first-time offenders involving small quantities will receive a gross misdemeanor penalty of up to a year in jail.

Misdemeanor and Gross Misdemeanor Drug Possession

Possession of small amounts of the following drugs carries misdemeanor-level penalties.

Gross misdemeanor. A person who unlawfully possesses one or more mixtures containing a schedule V controlled substance faces up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine.

Misdemeanor. A misdemeanor penalty of up to 90 days' jail time applies to possession of kratom (if younger than 18), salvia divinorum, and synthetic cannabinoids.

Petty misdemeanor. A petty misdemeanor conviction, such as for possessing 42.5 grams or less of marijuana, requires the defendant to participate in a drug education program (under most circumstances) and pay a fine of up to $300. No jail time is attached to this offense.

(Minn. Stat. § 152.01, .02, 152.021 to .027 (2021); State v. Florine, 303 Minn. 103, 104, 226 N.W.2d 609, 610 (1975).)

Possession of Substances with Intent to Manufacture Methamphetamine

Minnesota law also criminalizes a person's possession of specified drug precursors (such as ephedrine or iodine) with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine. Many of these precursors are common household chemicals, but when possessed in order to make illegal drugs, penalties include up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

(Minn. Stat. § 152.0262 (2021).)

Talk to an Attorney

If you have been charged with a drug-related offense in Minnesota, contact a local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A controlled substance conviction can become part of your permanent criminal record and negatively impact your ability to find employment or housing, as well as subject you to massive fines and lengthy incarceration time. An experienced lawyer will discuss the circumstances unique to your situation, formulate possible defenses, and protect your constitutional rights.

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