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Update! Colorado Drug Laws 2022

It’s summer, which means more Colorado residents are enjoying the great outdoors, attending concerts, and getting together with family and friends. Sometimes parties end up involving alcohol and other substances, both legal and illegal. 

While state law is lenient in some ways (marijuana is legal in Colorado), there are harsh penalties for violating drug laws. It’s important to stay up to date on the current restrictions to avoid facing criminal charges for drugs.

Drug charges can affect your income, career, and family. At Wolf Law, our team of criminal defense attorneys wants to ensure that every Colorado citizen gets the legal representation they deserve. If you have been charged with a drug crime in Colorado, schedule a consultation at our Denver office by calling 720-479-8574 or contacting us online.

Marijuana laws

Colorado legalized recreational (a.k.a. retail) marijuana in 2012. Medical marijuana is also legal in the state, but you must have a medical marijuana registry identification card, which you can obtain from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

To purchase, possess, or consume retail marijuana, you must be at least 21 years old. Providing retail marijuana to a minor is a felony. 

If you are at least 21, you can buy up to 1 ounce of retail marijuana at a time from a licensed store. Adults may possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana at a time. 

In Colorado, you can legally consume marijuana in designated places:

  • Private property (e.g., your home). If you rent, check with your landlord; property owners may ban the use and possession of marijuana on their property.
  • Lodging (e.g., a hotel). Lodging providers may determine whether to allow marijuana on their properties.

There are many places where it is illegal to consume marijuana:

  • Federal lands: national parks, national forests, and ski slopes
  • Public places: restaurants, housing complex common areas, ski resorts, sidewalks, concert venues, businesses, and amusement parks

Colorado counties, towns, and cities may set their own rules for marijuana consumption, so it’s always best to verify local rules before consuming marijuana.

Schedule Classifications of illegal drugs in Colorado

Like the federal government, Colorado’s state government separates controlled substances (i.e., drugs) into schedules. These drug schedules are based on the likelihood of abuse:

  • Schedule I: heroin, LSD, PCP, psilocybin (i.e., magic mushrooms), peyote, and other drugs with a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.
  • Schedule II: opium, oxycodone, fentanyl, cocaine, hydrocodone, methamphetamines, and other drugs that have a high potential for abuse but also have an accepted medical use. Abuse of these drugs can have severe physical and psychological consequences.
  • Schedule III: barbiturates, anabolic steroids, ketamine, and other drugs that have a lesser potential for abuse than schedule I or II drugs, but can still cause a high level of dependence.
  • Schedule IV: anti-anxiety medications such as diazepam, sleep medications such as zolpidem, and other drugs that have accepted medical uses and a lower potential for abuse than schedule III drugs.
  • Schedule V: over-the-counter cold medicines and cough syrups that contain minimal amounts of codeine. These drugs have an accepted medical use and low potential for abuse.

The HB19-1263 law changed the possession of small amounts of some schedule I and schedule II drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor. However, even misdemeanor charges can lead to fines, probation, and jail time, and they can affect your ability to access employment and housing.

Drug penalties in Colorado

The penalties for drug crimes in Colorado can vary depending on the substances involved, the age of the individual, and the action (e.g., possession vs. distribution).

Marijuana DUI penalties

Even though marijuana is legal, it’s a crime to drive while high. You can transport marijuana in your car as long as it’s in a sealed container. You can’t drive across state lines, and you can’t bring marijuana to Denver International Airport.

It’s illegal to drive after consuming marijuana; doing so can lead to a DUI charge. Under state law, the impairment level for marijuana is 5 nanograms of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)  per milliliter of blood. 

If you have more than the legal limit of THC in your system while driving, you can be charged with a DUI. However, you can also get a DUI charge with lower amounts of THC if your driving ability is impaired. 

The Colorado government states that using 10 mg or more of THC can cause impairment. You should wait at least six hours after smoking up to 35 mg of THC. The waiting time for consuming THC through “edibles” is longer; wait at least eight hours after eating or drinking up to 18 mg of THC.

Other drug penalties

The penalties for possessing controlled substances depend on the schedule of the drug in question. For example, possessing 4 grams or less of a schedule I or II controlled substance is a level 1 drug misdemeanor until the fourth offense (and subsequent offenses) when it becomes a level 4 drug felony. 

The penalties for a level 1 drug misdemeanor are a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 180 days in jail or two years of probation for the first two offenses. Penalties for the third and subsequent offenses are up to 364 days in jail.

The penalties for selling drugs are much more severe than possession penalties. For example, giving marijuana to someone under 21 years old is a felony, which has penalties of up to 32 years in jail and fines of up to $1 million.

Contact Wolf Law if you’re facing a drugs charge

There are plenty of ways to have fun in Colorado, and marijuana is legal. However, there are rules that govern how and where you can use marijuana, and the penalties for driving high are severe. Other drugs are illegal in the state, and even possessing them can lead to fines and jail time.

At Wolf Law, we know that it’s often hard to keep up with Colorado’s drug laws, especially those governing marijuana use. If you’ve ended up with drug charges, our team can explain the legal process and help you build a strong defense. To get in touch with our Denver office, call 720-479-8574 or contact us online.