In 2019 Colorado’s governor signed HB 19-1263, a bill intended to reduce certain felony possession charges to a misdemeanor offense. Under certain circumstances, individuals found with Schedule I and Schedule II substances may not face a felony conviction and so can avoid a lengthy punishment. The law now allows a judge to order offenders suffering from a drug-related issue to complete a treatment program instead of serving a sentence of incarceration.

Several factors contribute to an individual developing a dependency on drugs, but the court recognizes it does not necessarily mean he or she is a criminal. By working with a defendant to get beneficial substance abuse treatment, the legal system will not only process cases quicker but can also reduce the cost to taxpayers.

Substances that qualify

As reported by The Denver Channel Contact 7 Team, dealers may face felony charges, but individuals arrested for possessing single-use amounts of drugs may instead face a misdemeanor charge. “Single-use” means that the amount of a substance found is 4 grams or less, which is generally enough for one individual to only ingest once. Schedule I substances include LSD and heroin. Examples of Schedule II drugs include meth, codeine and opium.

To qualify for the misdemeanor charge, the amount must prove to be no more than a single dosage. If the amount indicates that an individual may have intended to distribute some of the drugs to another individual, the offense may no longer qualify as single-use possession. Controlled substances found in possession with the intent to distribute may result in a felony charge, which is not eligible for a treatment program under the bill.

Causes for treatment

When the use of illegal substances spirals out of control as a result of mental health issues or trauma, an individual may act out of character and begin to medicate themselves. Helping a troubled individual to overcome an addiction may reduce recidivism more effectively than ordering a defendant to spend time incarcerated with hardened criminals at the taxpayers’ expense.