When Colorado legalized in marijuana in 2014, it wasn’t exactly clear to many just how legal it was. Many people outside of the state were under the impression that marijuana was legal in all circumstances, which is not true.
In fact, the current laws regarding marijuana are similar to the laws regarding alcohol. If you’re under the age of 21, being caught with pot still means you could face fines and criminal charges.
Specifically, you run the risk of being charged with illegal possession or consumption of marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia. All it takes is an ounce or less to be charged with possession – in other words, any marijuana at all. And paraphernalia, under Colorado law, is any equipment, products, or materials that are used (or that are intended or designed to be used) in consuming or cultivating marijuana.
Both offenses are charged as a petty offense.
Penalties for Marijuana Crimes as an Underage Offender
If you are charged with marijuana crimes while underage, the penalties are relatively light. For a first offense, you will face a fine of up to $100, and you might have to complete an educational program approved by Colorado Department of Human Services’ Department of Behavioral Health.
A second offense still only comes with a fine of up to $100, and the court is required to order you to complete the educational program. You may also have to undergo a substance abuse assessment and complete substance abuse treatment. On top of that, you may also have to complete 24 hours of community service.
A third offense bumps the fines up to $250, and after this offense, you will have to undergo substance abuse assessment and possibly treatment. You will also have to complete up to 36 hours of community service.
Exceptions for Underage Marijuana Offenses
Facing marijuana charges, however, should not deter underage individuals from getting the medical help they or another underage individual might need if the consumption of marijuana causes a medical emergency. If you are underage, you can avoid marijuana charges providing you do the following to get medical assistance:
- Call 911 to report that another underage individual needs medical assistance due to the consumption of marijuana
- Provide their name to 911 operator
- Be the first person to make the 911 report
- Remain with the person needing medical assistance until the assistance arrives
Cooperating with medical professionals and law enforcement while under the influence of marijuana will allow you to avoid charges and get the help you need for your friend or loved one.
If You Have Been Brought Up on Marijuana Charges
But even if you are simply charged with possession or consumption and have the $100 or $250 to spare for fines, having a petty offense on your record may affect future court appearances, and will also stay on your criminal record for landlords, loan providers, and employers to see.
Luckily, juveniles and individuals who have been convicted on drug crimes may be able to have their criminal records sealed or expunged. Through that process, your criminal history will not be available to the public, and you will be legally allowed to say that you have not been convicted of a crime.
For more information on marijuana-related charges, as well as the process for expungement or record sealing, contact a Colorado drug crimes attorney.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2016 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.