How Are Drugs Classified in CO and Why Does It Matter?

Colorado is a state that has decriminalized certain substances in certain amounts, most famously marijuana way back in 2014. But even though decriminalization has occurred within certain limits, possession of most controlled substances is still a felony.

Colorado classifies controlled substances, including both prescription and illicit substances, into schedules. These schedules influence the way a drug crime is classified and how it is penalized, as well, so it’s a very important system to understand – especially if you’re facing drug crime charges.

Here’s what you need to know about the Colorado drug classification system and the penalties that can be faced if you are found in possession of a drug on one of these schedules.

Drug Schedules in Colorado

The schedule of a particular drug depends on how addictive the substance is and if it has any approved medical uses. In Colorado, the drug schedules are:

Schedule I

For a drug to be placed on Schedule I, it must have no approved medical use and be high risk for misuse or dependency. Drugs on this schedule include heroin, LSD, and ecstasy.

This schedule carries with it some of the harshest drug penalties a person can face for felony drug charges.

Schedule II

These drugs have some accepted medical use but are still considered highly addictive and prone to misuse. Drugs on this schedule include cocaine, methamphetamines, morphine, and oxycontin.

Schedule III

Drugs on this schedule have an accepted medical use and a moderate potential for dependency and addiction. It includes drugs such as anabolic steroids, ketamine, and Vicodin.

Schedule IV

These drugs also have a medical use and are, in fact, prescribed to people. But they do have a higher chance to be abused than some other substances, which is why you find them on this schedule.

The most common drugs on this schedule are Klonopin, Valium, and Ambien.

Schedule V

The drugs on this schedule have medical use and are often prescribed. They have a lower chance of dependency so aren’t as regulated as some others. The most common drugs found on this schedule include Ezogabine, Lomotil, and Motofen.

Penalties for Drugs in Colorado

If you are found with a drug on one of these schedules illegally, then you face penalties. What penalty you face depends not only on the schedule of the drug found in your possession, but also the quantity and any past criminal drug offenses you may have on your record.

In general, the drugs that carry with them the most serious penalties are found on Schedule I. The next most serious on Schedule II and so on. The penalties that can be faced include:

Class 4 Felony

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

Class 5 Felony

This can send you to prison for up to three years and make you responsible for fines up to $100,000.

Denver CO Drug Crime Defense Laywer

Class 6 Felony

This carries with it a prison sentence of up to 18 months and fines of as much as $100,000.

Class 1 Misdemeanor

You can go to jail for up to 18 months for this and be responsible for fines for as much as $10,000.

Class 2 Misdemeanor

This crime can send you to jail for one year and require you to pay fines up to $1,000.


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.