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What does it mean that Colorado de-felonized drug possession charges?

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2020 | Drug Possession |

Last spring, bill HB 19-1263 was signed and became Colorado law. On March 1st, 2020, the law officially went into effect. HB 19-1263 reclassifies the offense of possession of schedule I or II substances as a level-one drug misdemeanor. Does this mean that if law enforcement pulls you over with heroin in your possession, you will not face felony charges? Not necessarily…

For the misdemeanor classification, you must not hold more than four grams of schedule I or II classed drugs. Additionally, the bill states that your fourth or ensuing offense of said drug types at four grams or less will be considered a felony. The following drugs fall under the schedule classes in question:

  • Schedule I: heroin and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) – also known as “acid”
  • Schedule II: methamphetamine, opium, codeine, fentanyl

What’s more, illegally possessing more than six ounces of marijuana has become a level-one drug misdemeanor. And, possessing more than three ounces of marijuana concentrate is also a level-one drug misdemeanor.

Penalties for conviction of Colorado drug misdemeanors

If convicted, you may face up to 180 days in jail or two years of probation. Once you have accumulated a third or subsequent level-one offense, the jailtime increases to nearly a year behind bars. You may also be subject to fines. Level-two drug misdemeanors of course bear less in punishments but may still lead to jailtime – 120 days and potentially a year of probation.

How might this change impact the future?

Ultimately, the hope of those who support this reclassification is that it will be a positive change for those who struggle with addiction. They believe that the change may result in more of those who struggle attending drug treatment centers instead of winding up in prison for more than a year and not receiving adequate help for their addiction. Of course, there are also those who believe it may cause a spike in jail populations because misdemeanor offenders face jail as a punishment (rather than prison).

It may be a while before we see long-term impacts of the change, but it is sure to have its effects on the culture and the law enforcement tactics of The Centennial State.