Colorado to De-Felonize Drug Possession​ in 2020

Colorado Drug Possession, Criminal Defense Lawyer

New Drug Sentencing Reform Signed Into Law

Colorado recently passed a new law de-felonizing most low-level drug possessions charges. This move is aimed to lessen the burden on the Colorado Prison System and to focus on treating drug possession offenders. The bill, HB 19-1263, also creates a grant, hoping to redirect funds to Drug Courts that help people fight addiction. 

Currently, under Colorado Revised Statute § 18-18-403.5, unlawful possession of a controlled substance, any possession of a schedule 1 or schedule 2 drug is a class 4 drug felony. That means that an offender who failed treatment or wasn’t eligible for probation would be sent to prison for six months to up to two years if the crime was aggravated.

The new law, which goes into effect March 1, 2020, will make drug possession a class 1 drug misdemeanor. That means someone who has any schedule 1 or 2 drugs like, cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine will only face the possibility of 6 months to 18 months in the county jail. Under the new laws, the only time drug possession will be charged as a drug felony 4 is if the person is charged with drug possession as a 4th or subsequent offense. So, most convictions of drug possession will not count as a felony conviction.

See the drug felony sentencing chart below:

Class                            Presumptive Range                Parole                           Fine

Drug Felony 18*-32 years prison3 years after prison$5k to $1 mil
Drug Felony 24-8 years prison2 years after prison$3k-$750k
Drug Felony 32-4 years prison1 year after prison$2k-$500k
Drug Felony 46 months –1-year prison1 year after prison$1k-$100k
Drug Misdemeanor 16 months – 18 months jailNone$500-$5k
Drug Misdemeanor 2No jail – 12 month jailNone$50-$750

*Note: Unlike the other provisions, a Level 1 Drug Felony requires a mandatory sentence to prison. (at least 8 years). See Section 18-1.3-501(7).

** Any Felony drug crime can become aggravated for several reasons. If aggravated, the person faces double the possible maximum in prison. 

Drug Offenders in Colorado Prisons

According to the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, “about 30% of all state felony filings are for drug offenses.” In 2017, about 75% of all drug felony cases filed were for simple possession charges. 84% of the people sent to prison for possession were initially charged with that offense, rather than accepting a plea deal to get out from under a heavier allegation.

It’s currently unclear how much this change in Colorado Drug policy is going to save the state financially. However, the focus of someone going through the judicial system for drug possession is going to be facing a much different trajectory than before. The hope is that their sentences will be more treatment-oriented than before.

Facing criminal charges may seem daunting. As criminal defense lawyers serving the Vail Valley and Roaring Fork Valley, we know how these charges are pursued locally. If you are looking for a criminal defense or drug crime attorney, please contact Kalamaya | Goscha. (970) 305-3794 or email us at

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