Possession of a Controlled Substance in Minnesota

Learn what penalties apply to drug possession crimes in Minnesota.

By , Attorney · University of Houston Law Center
Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated April 30, 2024

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 Controlled Substances

Minnesota divides controlled substances into five schedules—Schedules I to V. Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous and highly addictive, while Schedule V drugs are the least dangerous and the least addictive. Below are some examples of drugs placed into each schedule.

Schedule I includes drugs such as heroin, MDMA, LSD, psilocybin, GHB, and flunitrazepam.

Schedule II includes drugs such as codeine, morphine, oxycodone, cocaine, fentanyl, and meth.

Schedule III includes drugs such as ketamine, pentobarbital, and anabolic steroids.

Schedule IV includes drugs such as barbital, diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan).

Schedule V drugs include therapeutic medicines containing low doses of codeine or other narcotics, as well as meth precursor drugs (such as ephedrine or pseudoephedrine).

(Minn. Stat. § 152.02 (2024).)

How Minnesota Defines Drug Possession Crimes

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

What Is Drug 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. Physical possession is like it sounds—drugs are found on the person. 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.

What Are Aggravating Factors in Drug Offenses?

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.

What Are the Penalties for Illegal Drug Possession in Minnesota?

Minnesota divides drug possession crimes into five degrees—first- through fifth-degree controlled substance crimes. Plus, separate penalties exist for aggravated first-degree offenses, possession with intent to manufacture meth, cannabis possession, and an "other category" that covers small amounts of limited drugs.

Penalties for unlawful drug possession in Minnesota range from a petty misdemeanor for possession of cannabis over legal limits to a 40-year felony for aggravated first-degree possession. Harsher penalties apply for repeat drug convictions.

Penalties for Aggravated First-Degree Drug Possession in Minnesota

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

  • the offense involves 100 grams or more, or 500 or more dosage units, of cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, or meth, 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.

(Minn. Stat. § 152.021 (2024).)

Penalties for First-Degree Drug Possession in Minnesota

A person can face first-degree charges for unlawfully possessing the following types and amounts of controlled substances:

  • 50 grams or more of cocaine or meth
  • 25 grams or more of cocaine or meth and the offense involved a weapon or two aggravating factors
  • 25 grams or more, or 100 dosage units or more, of heroin or fentanyl
  • 500 grams or more of narcotic drugs (other than cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, or meth)
  • 500 grams or dosage units or more of hallucinogens, amphetamine, or phencyclidine, or
  • 50 kilograms or more of cannabis flower, 10 kilograms or more of cannabis concentrate, or edibles or other consumer products infused with more than one kilogram of tetrahydrocannabinol.

A first conviction carries up to 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine. Second and subsequent convictions have penalties of 4 to 40 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.

(Minn. Stat. § 152.021 (2024).)

Penalties for Second-Degree Drug Possession in Minnesota

Second-degree drug possession charges apply when a person unlawfully possesses the following types and amounts of controlled substances:

  • 25 grams or more (but less than 50) of cocaine or meth
  • 10 grams or more (but less than 25) of cocaine or meth and the offense involved a weapon or at least three aggravating factors
  • 6 grams or more (but less than 25), or 50 dosage units (but less than 100), of heroin or fentanyl
  • 50 grams or more (but less than 500) of a narcotic drug other than cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, or meth
  • 50 grams or more (but less than 500), or 100 or more dosage units (but less than 500), of hallucinogens, amphetamine, or phencyclidine, or
  • 25 kilograms or more (but less than 50) of cannabis flower, 5 kilograms or more (but less than 10) of cannabis concentrate, or edibles or other consumer products infused with more than 500 grams (but less than 1 kilogram) of tetrahydrocannabinol.

These possession crimes carry penalties of up to 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. For second and subsequent convictions, the punishment can be 3 to 40 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

(Minn. Stat. § 152.022 (2024).)

Penalties for Third-Degree Drug Possession in Minnesota

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:

  • 10 grams or more (but less than 50) of a narcotic drug other than heroin or fentanyl
  • 3 grams or more (but less than 6) of heroin
  • 5 grams or more (but less than 6), or 25 dosage units or more (but less than 50), of fentanyl
  • 50 or more dosage units (but less than 100) of a narcotic other than heroin or fentanyl
  • any amount of a schedule I or II narcotic drug, meth, or amphetamine, or five or more dosage units of LSD, MDA, or MDMA, in a school, park or public housing zone or in a drug treatment facility, or
  • more than 10 kilograms (but less than 25) of cannabis flower, more than 2 kilograms (but less than 5) of cannabis concentrate, or edibles or other consumer products infused with more than 200 grams (but not more than 500) of tetrahydrocannabinol.

A guilty party is subject to up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

(Minn. Stat. § 152.023 (2024).)

Penalties for Fourth-Degree Drug Possession in Minnesota

Fourth-degree possession applies to the following types and amounts of unlawful controlled substances:

  • 10 or more dosage units (but less than 100) of phencyclidine or hallucinogen, or
  • a schedule I, II, or III controlled substance (excluding marijuana) with the intent to sell it.

A conviction subjects an offender to up to 15 years of prison time and a $100,000 fine.

(Minn. Stat. § 152.024 (2024).)

Penalties for Fifth-Degree Drug Possession in Minnesota

A conviction for possessing a schedule I, II, III, or IV substance (except cannabis flower, products, or edibles), 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 364 days in jail.

(Minn. Stat. § 152.025 (2024).)

Penalties for Cannabis Possession in Minnesota

Minnesota has legalized possession of small amounts of cannabis for adult personal use. Possession of amounts over the legal limit, possession by persons younger than 21, and use of cannabis in certain public places remain unlawful.

The state divides cannabis possession crimes involving amounts over the legal limit into four degrees.

Possession of Cannabis in the First Degree

A person commits a first-degree offense for unlawfully possessing:

  • more than 2 pounds but not more than 10 kilograms of cannabis flower
  • more than 160 grams but not more than 2 kilograms of cannabis concentrate, or
  • edibles or consumer products infused with more than 16 grams but not more than 200 grams of tetrahydrocannabinol.

A conviction means up to 5 years of prison time and a $10,000 fine.

Possession of Cannabis in the Second Degree

A person commits a second-degree offense for unlawfully possessing:

  • more than one pound but not more than 2 pounds of cannabis flower (not in the person's residence)
  • more than 80 grams but not more than160 grams of cannabis concentrate, or
  • edibles or consumer products infused with more than 8 grams but not more than 16 grams of tetrahydrocannabinol.

A conviction means up to 364 days of jail time and a $3,000 fine (a gross misdemeanor).

Possession of Cannabis in the Third Degree

A person commits a third-degree offense for unlawfully possessing:

  • more than four ounces but not more than one pound of cannabis flower (not in the person's residence)
  • more than 16 grams but not more than 80 grams of cannabis concentrate, or
  • edibles or consumer products infused with more than 1.6 grams but not more than 8 grams of tetrahydrocannabinol.

A conviction means up to 90 days of jail time and a $1,000 fine (a misdemeanor).

Possession of Cannabis in the Fourth Degree

A person commits a fourth-degree offense for unlawfully possessing:

  • more than two but less than four ounces of cannabis flower (not in the person's residence)
  • more than 8 but not more than 16 grams of cannabis concentrate, or
  • edibles or consumer products infused with more than 8 grams but not more than 1.6 grams of tetrahydrocannabinol.

A conviction carries up to a $300 fine for a petty misdemeanor.

Additional Possession Crimes in Minnesota

The following possession crimes have separate penalties.

Possession of Precursors With Intent to Manufacture Meth

Minnesota law 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 (2024).)

Other Category: Schedule V, Kratom, Salivia, and Synthetic Cannabinoids

A person who unlawfully possesses one or more mixtures containing a schedule V controlled substance faces up to 364 days in jail and a $3,000 fine.

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

(Minn. Stat. § 152.027 (2024).)

Talk to an Attorney

If you've 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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