Drug Possession in Colorado
While attitudes towards the “war on drugs” are changing in many parts of the United States, and in Colorado in particular, possession of certain drugs remains illegal and can carry serious penalties. Regardless of whether current policy in Colorado on illegal drug possession is right or wrong, or whether related prosecutions exhibit racial disparities and inconsistency in sentences, drug possession and distribution charges are common and can carry life-altering repercussions. If you find yourself charged with a drug possession charge in Colorado, you should contact a qualified and experienced drug possession defense attorney such as those at Patterson Weaver Law as soon as possible.
“Drug” is a generalized term, but for purposes of this discussion we are referring to “controlled substances,” which are regulated under the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) of 1970. Under the CSA, the manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of certain narcotics, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, anabolic steroids and other chemicals are classified into five distinct categories, called “Schedules.” Schedule I is the most dangerous, and Schedule V the least.
A drug’s placement in a particular “Schedule” is based upon several factors, including: the actual or relative potential for abuse; scientific evidence of its pharmacological effect, if known; the state of current scientific knowledge regarding the drug or other substance; its history and current pattern of abuse; the scope, duration, and significance of abuse; what, if any, risk there is to the public health; its psychic or physiological dependence liability; and whether the substance is an immediate precursor of another controlled substance.
Schedule 1- These are drugs with substantial potential for abuse and no putative medical use and unsafe for any treatment. Examples of illegal drugs include PCP, LSD, heroin, and mescaline.
Schedule II- These drugs have great potential for abuse. Some have medical value but can result in severe physical and psychological addiction if abused. Examples of Schedule 2 drugs include oxycodone, morphine, methadone, and opium.
Schedule III- These drugs have a much lower potential for abuse compared to Schedule 1 and 2 drugs. They also have accepted medical use, with the possibility of high psychological dependence and low to moderate physical dependence. Examples include anabolic steroids, barbiturates, and ketamine.
Schedule IV- These are drugs with a lower abuse potential compared to Schedule III drugs. They also have accepted medical use and can lead to some physical and psychological dependence. Prescription anti-anxiety medications like diazepam and sleep medications are a few examples.
Schedule V- Drugs in this category are the least dangerous. These have a low chance of abuse, and limited psychological and physical dependence. These medications have accepted medical use. Some examples include over-the-counter cough syrup and a few cold medications with trace amounts of codeine.
The term “drug possession” refers to the physical control you have over a particular controlled substance. There are three forms of possession:
- Actual Possession – the drugs are in your hand.
- Constructive Possession – you have control of the drugs, such as unprescribed Oxycodone pills in the glove compartment of your car.
- Joint Possession – you and your roommate keep drugs in a safe to which you both have access.
The possession and use of marijuana, be it medical or recreational, is now legal in about half of the states, including Colorado. Despite the growing acceptance of marijuana on the state level, its possession and use remains illegal on the Federal level (as of late 2020, marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, alongside heroin, LSD, ecstasy and peyote), and can carry extreme penalties for those convicted, such as extended incarceration. Although marijuana possession is allowed in various states, there are still limitations such as a minimum age to possess, a limit to how much you can possess at any one time, and where it can be used. It is also important to remember that even though medical and recreational marijuana are legal in Colorado, it is not legal everywhere in the state. Marijuana possession is still considered illegal on federally owned property such as airports, post offices, National Parks, etc.
Colorado Revised Statute (“CRS”) section 18-18-403.5- Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance
On March 1, 2020, a new law went into effect in Colorado which made possession of 4 grams or less of most (but not all) Schedule I and II substances a Class 1 Drug Misdemeanor instead of a felony. Possession of certain controlled substances, such as GHB and other “date rape” drugs, remains a Class 4 Drug Felony. Under the prior law, possession of even a miniscule amount of Schedule I or II substance (such as residue on drug paraphernalia) was a Class 4 Drug Felony.
Colorado made this change, at least in part, in an effort to reduce incarceration rates in the state’s prison system, and also “to provide offenders who are assessed to be in need of treatment or other intervention with probation supervision in conjunction with effective medical and behavioral intervention and treatment.” The new law expressly recognizes that “drug use and possession is primarily a health concern and should be treated as such by Colorado Courts.
Under the new law, sentencing for Drug Felonies and Misdemeanors is as follows:
- Drug Felony 1, presumptive range 8*-32 years in the Department of Corrections
- Drug Felony 2, presumptive range 4-8 years in the Department of Corrections
- Drug Felony 3, presumptive range 2-4 years in the Department of Corrections
- Drug Felony 4, presumptive range 6 months-1 year in the Department of Corrections
- Drug Misdemeanor 1, presumptive range 6 months-18 months jail
- Drug Misdemeanor 2, presumptive range no jail-12 months jail
* A Level 1 Drug Felony conviction requires a mandatory 8-year sentence to DOC
If you are apprehended with a controlled substance in Colorado, you could be facing any of the potential penalties listed above. Your charges and penalties will depend on the drugs involved and the amount of those drugs that were in your possession. Let the attorneys at Patterson Weaver Law help you through that process. gather the facts on your behalf.
Options for Colorado Residents with Drug Possession Convictions
In addition to the changes to Colorado law described above that went into effect on March 1, 2020, Colorado now allows individuals convicted of possessing controlled substances in the past to complete their sentence term and then request to have their felony convictions converted to misdemeanor convictions. This change helps people with previous drug possession charges avoid the stigma and long-lasting effects of felony drug convictions.
Contact an Experienced Colorado Springs Criminal Defense Attorney Today
At Patterson Weaver Law, LLC, we have experience and a history of positive outcomes when dealing with drug possession charges in Colorado Springs and the surrounding areas. We are here to represent your best interests from the day you hire us. We can help you navigate the intricate path of Colorado’s drug possession laws and help determine your best way forward.
Life happens. Let us help. Get in touch with us today for a free consultation.