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What is Drug Paraphernalia Under Colorado Criminal Law?

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP November 27, 2023

Understanding the various nuances and terminologies associated with drug-related crimes is essential, especially if you find yourself in legal trouble. In the state of Colorado, one concept you need to be familiar with is “drug paraphernalia” – a term that broadly encompasses a wide range of items that facilitate the use, production, or transportation of controlled substances.

Definition of Drug Paraphernalia

“Drug paraphernalia” means all equipment, products, and materials of any kind that are used, intended for use, or designed for use in planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, processing, preparing, packaging, repackaging, storing, containing, concealing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance in violation of the laws of this state. 

Drug paraphernalia” includes, but is not limited to: 

    1. Scales and balances used, intended for use, or designed for use in weighing or measuring controlled substances; 
    2. Separation gins and sifters used, intended for use, or designed for use in removing twigs and seeds from or in otherwise cleaning or refining marijuana; 
    3. Blenders, bowls, containers, spoons, and mixing devices used, intended for use, or designed for use in compounding controlled substances; 
    4. Capsules, balloons, envelopes, and other containers used, intended for use, or designed for use in packaging small quantities of controlled substances; 
    5. Containers and other objects used, intended for use, or designed for use in storing or concealing controlled substances; or 
    6. Objects used, intended for use, or designed for use in ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing marijuana, cocaine, hashish, or hashish oil into the human body, such as: 
      1. Metal, wooden, acrylic, glass, stone, plastic, or ceramic pipes with or without screens, permanent screens, hashish heads, or punctured metal bowls; 
      2. Water pipes; 
      3. Carburetion tubes and devices; 
      4. Smoking and carburetion masks; 
      5. Roach clips, meaning objects used to hold burning material, such as a marijuana cigarette that has become too small or too short to be held in the hand; 
      6. Miniature cocaine spoons and cocaine vials; 
      7. Chamber pipes; 
      8. Carburetor pipes; 
      9. Electric pipes; 
      10. Air-driven pipes; 
      11. Chillums; 
      12. Bongs; or 
      13. Ice pipes or chillers. 
  1. “Drug paraphernalia” does not include: 
  2. Any marijuana accessories as defined in section 16 (2)(g) of article XVIII of the state constitution; or 
  3. Testing equipment used, intended for use, or designed for use in identifying or in analyzing the strength, effectiveness, or purity of controlled substances.”

Potential Fines and Penalties For Possession of Drug Paraphernalia Conviction 

To be convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia, a person must “possess drug paraphernalia and know or reasonably should know that the drug paraphernalia could be used under circumstances in violation of the laws of this state.”

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia is a petty drug offense, and, upon conviction, “shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars.”

The Hypodermic Needle or Syringe Exception

One critical component of Colorado’s possession of drug paraphernalia law is the hypodermic needle or syringe exception. Law enforcement officers may ask individuals about needles or syringes prior to searching a person, their premises, or their vehicle. According to this exception, if the person alerts the officer to the presence of a hypodermic needle or syringe either in response to the officer’s question or voluntarily BEFORE the search takes place, the officer cannot arrest or cite the person for possession of the needle or syringe: 

“Prior to assessing or treating a person, an emergency medical service provider, as defined in section 18-3-201 (1.3), or other first responder may ask the person whether the person is in possession of a hypodermic needle or syringe that may cut or puncture the technician or first responder. If a hypodermic needle or syringe is on the person, and the person, either in response to the question or voluntarily, alerts the emergency medical service provider or first responder of that fact, a peace officer shall not arrest or cite the person pursuant to this section for the hypodermic needle or syringe or section 18-18-403.5 for any minuscule, residual controlled substance that may be present in a used hypodermic needle or syringe, and the district attorney shall not charge or prosecute the person pursuant to this section for the hypodermic needle or syringe or section 18-18-403.5 for any minuscule, residual controlled substance that may be present in a used hypodermic needle or syringe.”

If you’ve been arrested and need help with any type of criminal matter, contact a Boulder criminal defense lawyer to schedule a free consultation.