Colorado is known for its progressive marijuana/cannabis laws. The state legalized medical marijuana in 2000 and the recreational use of the drug in 2012. As a result, Colorado has seen an influx of marijuana tourism—and a fair share of drug trafficking.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) notes that Colorado is a major source of black-market marijuana which is often trafficked out of state. In response to this issue, Colorado has implemented strict regulations and laws surrounding the production, distribution, and consumption of cannabis.
As an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney, Kent Leier understands the complexities of the state's marijuana laws and how they impact residents and visitors alike. If you're seeking representation for any drug-related charges, reach out to us at The Leier Law Firm LLC to schedule a consultation. From our Fort Collins firm, we serve residents of Loveland, Greeley, Windsor, Evans, and the nearby areas.
Marijuana Laws in Colorado
In Colorado, adults aged 21 and older can legally purchase and use recreational marijuana. Furthermore, individuals above the age of 21 are permitted to grow marijuana for personal use. However, the law sets a strict possession limit of two ouncesor below. Possessing or cultivating marijuana above this legal limit carries penalties, as does possession of marijuana paraphernalia.
For first-time offenders, the penalties can be severe, particularly if you're found in possession of large quantities of marijuana.
Possession of more than 2 ounces: This is a petty offense, punishable by a maximum fine of $100.
Open display of fewer than 2 ounces: Also a petty offense, this carries a maximum fine of $100.
Possession of between 2 to 6 ounces: This escalates to a level 2 drug misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $700.
Possession of between 6 to 12 ounces: Now a level 1 drug misdemeanor, this could result in 6 to 18 months jail time and a maximum fine of $5,000.
Possession of more than 12 ounces: This is a level 4 drug felony, which could lead to between 1 to 2 years in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000.
Possession of marijuana paraphernalia: This is a petty offense punished by a maximum $100 fine.
It's important to understand that Colorado typically imposes harsher penalties for repeat offenses. The court considers previous convictions when determining sentences, meaning you could face longer jail terms, higher fines, or stricter probation conditions with each subsequent offense.
Marijuana Trafficking Charges and Penalties in Colorado
Despite the legalization of cannabis use, marijuana trafficking (or the intent to distribute) is a serious offense in Colorado. The severity of the penalties depends on the quantity of marijuana involved in the offense. For instance, possession with intent to distribute less than 4 ounces is a level 1 drug misdemeanor, punishable by between 6 to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
As the quantity of the drug escalates, so do the penalties. If you're found with the intent to distribute between 4 to 12 ounces of marijuana, it's considered a felony. The highest level of offense involves trafficking more than 50 pounds of marijuana, which carries a mandatory prison sentence of 8 to 32 years and a maximum fine of $1,000,000.
Penalties for Possession With Intent to Distribute
Possession with intent to distribute is a serious offense, with penalties escalating rapidly based on the quantity of marijuana involved:
4 ounces or less: Level 1 drug misdemeanor punishable between 6 to 18 months in jail and a fine up to $5,000.
Between 4 to 12 ounces: Felony punishable between 6 months to 2 years in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000.
Between 12 ounces and 5 pounds: Felony punishable between 2 to 6 years in prison with a maximum fine of $500,000.
Between 5 pounds and 50 pounds: Felony punishable between 4 to 16 years of prison and a maximum fine of $750,000.
More than 50 pounds: Felony punishable between 8 to 32 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1,000,000.
Marijuana Cultivation Penalties
The consequences of illegally growing marijuana are also substantial:
Cultivation of between 6 to 30 plants: Level 4 drug felony punishable between 6 months to 2 years in prison and has a maximum fine of $100,000.
Cultivation of more than 30 plants: Level 3 drug felony punishable between 2 to 6 years in prison and a maximum fine of $500,000.
Trafficking Across Colorado State Lines
Just because it's legal to purchase and consume cannabis in Colorado, that does not permit trafficking across state lines. This act is considered a federal offense and can result in severe penalties, including hefty fines and lengthy prison sentences.
Possible Defenses Against Marijuana Trafficking Charges
When facing marijuana trafficking charges, it's important to remember that you have a right to a strong defense and working with our trial-tested criminal attorney is the key to building your best defense. The following covers some possible strategies that may make an impact on your case:
Unlawful Search and Seizure
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects citizens against unlawful search and seizure. If law enforcement conducted a search without a proper warrant or probable cause, we may be able to challenge the legality of the search; successfully doing so could lead to the suppression of evidence, which can significantly weaken the prosecution's case.
Lack of Ownership
Ownership is a key component in any drug trafficking case. If we can prove that you did not own or have control over the marijuana in question, it may be possible to absolve you from the trafficking charges. This could involve proving that you were unaware of the presence of the drugs or that they belonged to someone else.
Entrapment or Coercion
Entrapment occurs when law enforcement officers induce a person to commit a crime that they would not otherwise have committed. If you were coerced into participating in the trafficking of marijuana, we can argue entrapment as a defense strategy. This can be a complex defense to establish, but with our extensive experience and positive reputation, we are well-equipped to handle such cases.
Intent to Dispose
Intention plays a significant role in drug trafficking charges. If we can demonstrate that you were only temporarily holding the marijuana with the intention to dispose of it, this could potentially serve as a viable defense strategy.
Seek Experienced Representation
While Colorado has progressive marijuana laws, trafficking charges are taken very seriously. If you find yourself facing marijuana or drug charges, remember that the penalties can be severe. It's in your best interest to seek out an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the complexities of these charges and can mount a strong defense. At The Leier Law Firm LLC, we're here to help you navigate this challenging time and work tirelessly to secure your best possible outcome.
Choosing our drug crime defense attorney means prioritizing your rights and future. We leverage our prosecution experience to anticipate the opposing side's strategy, allowing us to build a robust defense on your behalf. Contact our firm in Fort Collins, Colorado, to schedule a time to talk.