All states regulate and control the possession for personal use of controlled dangerous substances (CDS), though each differs in its exact definition of CDS and the penalties for possession. Colorado considers not only well-known drugs like marijuana, heroin and cocaine to be controlled substances, but also the compounds used to manufacture them. Possessing drug paraphernalia, such as pipes, is also illegal.
Colorado divides its CDS into five “schedules,” according to their likelihood for abuse.
Some CDS such as codeine, a common pain medication, may be possessed legally so long as the holder has a valid prescription.
This article concerns possession for personal use only. Separate punishments apply to possession for sale or for manufacture of controlled substances. For information about possession of controlled substances for sale, see Sale of a Controlled Substance in Colorado.
In Colorado, the criminal penalties depend on the type and amount of CDS involved. CDS possession crimes are classified as petty offenses, misdemeanors, or felonies.
Petty offenses are the least serious CDS possession crime. Petty offenses are divided into two classes. All petty offense possession crimes are Class 1 and are punishable by the amount of the fine specified in the section that defines the offense.
(Colorado Code Section 18.1.3-503.)
Misdemeanors are divided into three classes and are less serious than felonies. CDS misdemeanor possession crimes are either Class 1 or Class 2.
(Colorado Code Section 18-1.3-501.)
To learn more about these classes, see Colorado Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences.
Colorado divides felonies into six classes. Class 1 felonies are the most serious and Class 6 felonies are the least serious. All CDS possession for personal use crimes are either Class 4, 5, or 6 felonies.
(Colorado Code Section 18-1.3-401.)
To learn more about these classes, see Colorado Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences.
All possession of CDS crimes, other than marijuana, are felonies. The class of felony depends on the type and amount of CDS in the defendant’s possession.
(Colorado Code Section 8.18-403.5.)
Possession of any substance that contains any amount a Schedule III, IV, or V CDS, other than flunitrazepam or ketamine, is a Class I misdemeanor.
(Colorado Code Section 18.18-403.5.)
The unlawful use of any CDS, other than marijuana, is a Class 2 misdemeanor. (Colorado Code Section 18-18-404.)
The possession for personal use of marijuana is the least serious CDS possession crime. Except as discussed elsewhere, the possession for personal use of marijuana is either a petty offense or misdemeanor.
(Colorado Code Section 18-18-406.)
For more information about how Colorado regulates marijuana, see Colorado Possession of Marijuana Laws and Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in Colorado.
Under limited circumstances a patient diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition may be prescribed medical marijuana to treat or alleviate the patient’s symptoms. However, the unlawful use of another person’s medical marijuana is a Class 1 misdemeanor. (Colorado Code Section 18-18-406.3.)
For more information on medical marijuana in Colorado, see Colorado Medical Marijuana Laws.
The possession or use of up to eight ounces in a detention facility is a Class 6 felony. A subsequent conviction, where both the initial and underlying incident involved more than one ounce of marijuana, is a Class 5 felony. (Colorado Code Section 18-18-406.5.)
The possession of drug paraphernalia is a Class 2 petty offense punishable by a fine of up to $100.
The possession for personal use of any amount of synthetic cannabinoid or salvia divinorum, a psychoactive plant that produces hallucinatory experiences, is a Class 2 misdemeanor.
The abuse of toxic vapors for the purpose of intoxication is a Class 1 petty offense. Toxic vapors include:
(Colorado Code Section 18-18-412.)
Defendants with multiple felony convictions of any crime face increasingly harsh punishment. Class 6 felony convictions are exempt from habitual offender enhanced penalties.
Two or more prior convictions. A defendant with two or more prior felony convictions, either from Colorado or another state, who is convicted of a third felony within a ten year period, is punished by term of incarceration three times that of the maximum penalty for the underlying conviction.
Three of more prior convictions. A defendant with three or more prior felony convictions, either from Colorado or another state, who is convicted of a fourth felony within a ten year period, is punished by term of incarceration four times that of the maximum penalty for the underlying conviction.
(Colorado Statute Section 18-1.3-801.)
A possession for CDS conviction can have life-long consequences. You should seek the help of an attorney who is experienced in defending CDS possession crimes so that you understand the charges you are facing, any possible defenses, the different options available to you, and the possible outcomes of your case.