A new Colorado law went into effect at the beginning of March 2020. House Bill 19-1263, which was signed into law by the governor in May 2019, essentially defelonizes the possession of small amounts of Schedule I and II substances, such as cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl. Under the new law, if you are caught in possession of a small amount of these drugs, you will be charged with a misdemeanor rather than a felony.
Classifying Schedule I and Schedule II Drugs
Started in the 1970‘s, the federal government declared a war on drugs. As part of this initiative, they began classifying controlled substances by ‘Schedules’. There are five Schedules, with Schedule V being the least controlled, and Schedule I being the most. Many states follow federal guidelines on how abusers of these drugs should be penalized, including, until recently, Colorado.
Schedule I drugs in Colorado are those that are considered to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. Marijuana was included on this list until it was legalized in 2014. The current Schedule I drugs include:
- Psilocybin (mushrooms)
Schedule II substances have a high potential for abuse but, unlike Schedule I drugs, have limited accepted medical use. Examples include:
Before the passing of House Bill 19-1263, those found abusing, selling, or possessing Schedule I or Schedule II drugs could face felony charges, meaning that their prison sentence would be extended, their punitive fines would be higher, and they would have limited rights once out of prison. However, Schedule I and Schedule II drug crimes are no longer considered felonies in Colorado.
The Passing of House Bill 19-1263
Once signed into law, House Bill 1263 made penalties for personal possession of certain controlled substances far less severe. This benefits not only the individuals charged with possession, but also the state. The new law will significantly reduce the costs of incarceration and save Colorado taxpayers a great deal of money – an estimated $8.6 to 13 million over the next five years. These savings can be used to fund drug treatment programs instead of jail time.
The new law is designed to break the cycle of drug use and incarceration. By removing felony charges from personal drug possession and use, it will give users the opportunity to seek treatment for addiction, instead of going to jail. At the same time, it will save the state millions of dollars in as little as five years, as outlined by the Joint Budget Committee.
Schedule I and Schedule II Drugs and the New Penalties
Since the new law was passed, you can no longer be charged with a felony for possession of less than four grams of a Schedule I or II controlled substance, such as LSD, cocaine, or mushrooms. Possession is now charged as a level 1 misdemeanor, not a felony, which would be a serious black mark on your criminal record. A felony conviction could significantly impact your future prospects, including employment and other opportunities. If you are convicted of possession of a Schedule I or II substance after March 2020, you may be sentenced to probation, treatment, and/or public service.
It is important to note, however, that a misdemeanor charge could still result in fines, a prison sentence, and further correctional punishments. While a misdemeanor will not impact your life as heavily as a felony, the defelonization of Schedule I and II drugs does not mean that a charge of selling, possession, or use will be a cake walk.
Do You Still Need a Lawyer?
If you have been arrested for possession of a controlled substance in Colorado, it is important to have an experienced attorney by your side, even with the new drug law in effect. Call The Bussey Law Firm, P.C. at (719) 401-0585 to schedule a free consultation. Our Colorado Springs drug crime defense lawyer could fight to help you achieve a favorable outcome in your case.