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Drug Classification: Everything You Need to Know

By Peters & Nolan, LLC on November 5, 2020

Dangerous drugs are classified in different categories (called schedules), according to their abuse or dependency potential and accepted medical uses. These schedules are used by law enforcement for the purposes of classifying crimes and imposing penalties. Each state has its own schedules of controlled substances. Most states, including Colorado, model their schedules on the federal schedules, as listed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

How Are Controlled Substances Classified?

Schedule I

The major determining factor in placing a drug in a particular schedule is its abuse rate. Controlled substances with the highest potential for abuse and physical or psychological dependence and no currently accepted medical use are classified as Schedule I. These drugs include:

  • Heroin
  • LSD
  • Ecstasy
  • Peyote
  • Methaqualone (a sedative, sleep inducing drug)
  • Marijuana

Since Colorado has decriminalized the use of marijuana, Coloradans must follow the state laws… unless they are on federal property, in which case the federal law would be in force. See below for more detail.

Schedule II

Schedule II is the next level for drugs that are considered dangerous and have a high potential for abuse and dependence. Some Schedule II drugs have a currently accepted medical use. They include:

Schedule III

Controlled substances in the Schedule III category have moderate to low potential for dependence and less potential for abuse than Schedules I and II drugs, and some currently accepted medical use. They include:

  • Tylenol with codeine
  • Ketamine
  • Testosterone
  • Anabolic steroids

Schedule IV

Chemicals, substances, and drugs with a low potential for abuse or physical or psychological dependence are classified as Schedule IV. For example, this category includes:

  • Xanax
  • Darvon
  • Darvocet
  • Valium
  • Ativan
  • Ambien

Schedule V

Preparations containing limited quantities of narcotics with lower potential for abuse than Schedule IV drugs are classified as Schedule V. These drugs include cough suppressants, analgesics, and anti-diarrheal medications. Examples include:

  • Robitussin AC (cough medicine)
  • Parepectolin (diarrhea medicine)
  • Motofen (diarrhea medicine)
  • Lyrica (pain medication)

What About Marijuana?

Marijuana was legalized in Colorado for recreational use by adults ages 21 and older with Amendment 64 in 2012. It is legal for adults to possess up to one ounce of marijuana or THC. You can also purchase cannabis seeds and grow marijuana in your own home. You do not have to be a resident to buy marijuana in Colorado, and our state has many visitors and tourists.

However, under federal law, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug (even though it currently has some known medical uses). Possession on federal property within the state (national parks, airports, courthouses, etc.) may carry severe criminal penalties. It is also still a crime to possess more than one ounce of marijuana in Colorado. Possession of more than 12 ounces may be charged as a felony.

What Are the Penalties for Drug Possession in Colorado?

The criminal penalties for possession of a controlled substance will depend on the type and amount of drug and any prior offenses. Although state law favors treatment over imprisonment, possession of more than four grams of a Schedule I or Schedule II substance may be charged as a felony, and conviction could mean jail or prison time and up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. If the charge is possession with the intent to sell, the penalties could be even more severe.

Do You Need a Lawyer for Drug Possession Charges in Colorado?

If you are facing drug charges in Colorado, your best course of action is to speak with an experienced drug crime attorney as soon as possible. At Peters & Nolan, LLC, our experienced trial lawyers can provide aggressive criminal defense. We have an excellent track record of defending the rights of clients accused of drug crimes. Call us at (970) 243-4357 to find out how we can help.

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Peters & Nolan, LLC is your ideal source for high quality legal representation throughout the state of Colorado. Known for being personable and responsive, attorneys Andrew J. Peters and Andrew Nolan are aggressive trial lawyers with an excellent record of trying and settling cases in criminal defense, DUI/DWAI and personal injury.

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