Colorado Defelonized Drug Possession, Not Drug Trafficking

Being accused of a drug crime is a scary thing and is often confusing to boot. The laws surrounding drug possession and drug trafficking are complicated.

Being found in possession of a substance, especially in Colorado, may not lead to a serious offense, but being accused of trafficking those drugs can be – and there’s a fine line between possession and trafficking under the law.

In Northern Colorado, six people were recently accused of drug trafficking after several different types of drugs, from fentanyl to marijuana to heroin, were seized from their possession.

That may seem like a cut and dry case since so many drugs were found, along with weapons and money, but not all drug trafficking cases look this way.

One of the best things you can do to protect yourself from drug charges is to understand them. While Colorado has defelonized drug possession, that doesn’t mean you can’t be charged with trafficking. Here’s what you need to know.

Colorado Drug Possession Laws

Very recently, Colorado passed a law with its main purpose to defelonize low-level possession charges. It’s meant to help reduce the burden on the prison system and get drug offenders the treatment they need in their fight with addiction.

The new law became effective on March 1, 2020. In it, drug possession of a class I drug is merely a misdemeanor. Felony drug charges will only result in the 4th subsequent drug offense. That means most drug convictions will not result in felonies.

Penalties for Drug Possession in Colorado

Drug possession in Colorado is now defined as possessing four grams or less of most schedule I and II drugs. Schedule I and II drugs include:

  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy
  • Peyote
  • LSD
  • Methaqualone
  • Opium
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Fentanyl

Possession of these drugs is now charged as a misdemeanor with the exception of the possession of GHB, which is still a level 4 felony. The penalties associated with level I drug misdemeanors in Colorado include:

  • Up to 180 days in jail
  • Two years of probation
  • Fines up to $1,000

If a person is found in possession a third time, they can face up to one year in jail. For a level II drug possession conviction, the penalties include:

  • Up to 120 days in jail
  • One year of probation

For a third offense under a level II possession charge and conviction, up to 6 months in jail may be ordered with additional fines up to $500.

The Difference Between Drug Possession and Trafficking

In most cases, the difference between being charged with possession of drugs and trafficking of drugs is the quantity of a drug you are found in possession of. The courts also take into account the intent of the person possessing the drugs.

For example, if other people were involved in the acquisition of large amounts of drugs and movement of the drugs and substantial quantities of cash or other valuables are found along with it, then that makes a good case for drug trafficking and not merely possession.

Drug Trafficking in Colorado

If you are charged with drug trafficking in Colorado and found guilty, then you can face harsh penalties. It is a felony and the level of the charges brought directly reflects the quantity of a drug associated with the case.

The penalties for drug trafficking in Colorado include:

Level I Felony

This can result in up to 32 years in prison and fines up to $1 million.

Level II Felony

If convicted, up to 16 years in prison and up to $750,000 in fines can result.

Level III Felony

This can lead to up to six years in prison and fines up to $500,000.

Level IV Felony

Up to two years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines can result.

Denver Drug Possession Defense Attorney

Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security surrounding defelonized drug laws in Colorado. Understand that you can still face harsh penalties if you’re caught with drugs, especially large quantities, and can face serious legal problems as a result.


About the Author:

Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been recognized by countless legal organizations for his exemplary defense work, including Avvo, Best DWI Attorneys, Expertise, Lawyers of Distinction, The National Trial Lawyers, and others. He was also named one of the 10 Best in Client Satisfaction in Colorado by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys for 2020 and is Lead Counsel rated.