Kid law, part four: Minors and drugs |

Kid law, part four: Minors and drugs

Rohn Robbins
Vail, CO, Colorado

In the first three parts of this series, we noted that a kid is ” for most purposes ” a person under 18 years of age, and we have considered the limitations of minority, laws pertaining to cars, bikes and other means of locomotion, and looked at legal issues surrounding child abuse and neglect, body piercing, tattooing and curfew.

In this column, the subject is drugs and, in particular, drug laws pertaining to minors.

In a survey conducted in 2006, nearly half of high school seniors nationwide admitted to experimenting with an illegal drug. Almost 5 percent admitted to daily use of marijuana or hashish. Those numbers notwithstanding, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that illicit drug use among high schoolers has actually declined significantly over the last five years.

Not only do illegal drugs remain a concern but so too does the use of prescription drugs including OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax and Ritalin.

The number of kids misusing over-the-counter cough and cold medications is also alarming. There are similar troubling statistics regarding inhalers, anabolic steroids, methamphetamine and ecstasy.

Few kids are involved with the kinds of drug offenses that generally trigger being charged with a federal crime, such as large-scale trafficking, but state crimes can still have serious consequences.

Probably the most common drug-related crime in which children are involved is possession of a controlled substance. More than 100 controlled substances can result in felony charges and prison time solely for possession. The list includes cocaine, LSD, amphetamines and barbiturates. Lesser drug offenses – such as possession of small amounts of marijuana – may result in little more than a monetary fine, at least for a first offense.

Cultivating, selling, or possessing more than an ounce of marijuana or bringing marijuana on to school grounds are more serious offenses.

Possessing certain drug paraphernalia can also constitute a punishable offense. So, too, may it be illegal for a minor to simply be present ” say at a party ” where controlled substances are being used. In many states, even when a minor is spared time in jail, he or she may forfeit his or her driver’s license for either drug or alcohol-related offenses. If the minor has not yet obtained a driver’s license, his or her ability to obtain one may be delayed.

Simple possession can rise to a felony charge of possession with intent to sell if the minor is found to be in possession of more drugs than he or she could reasonably expected to consume himself. If a minor induces another minor to break certain drug laws, the minor inducing the misconduct could end up in state prison.

Not only do certain drug laws pertain specifically to minors but so do certain laws pertain to persons over 18 who encourage a minor’s possession or use of illicit drugs. This can include selling, preparing for sale or even giving certain controlled substances to a minor. When a person sells or encourages a minor’s drug use or possession in places where children are commonly present (schools, public playgrounds, day care centers, etc), such conduct can enhance a sentence, in some jurisdictions by a decade or more.

A last thing which should be considered is that using someone else’s prescription drugs is also a crime. Depending on the type of drug, illicit use can result in substantial fines, time in jail or both. Anabolic steroid use – without a valid doctor’s prescription – is also illegal and the sale of anabolic steroids can result in federal charges which, upon conviction, can earn the seller up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

While kids will be kids, and the law is at times more lenient in its treatment of youthful errors, there is seldom a free lunch. In part five of this series, we will take a peek at fighting, gangs, graffiti and vandalism.

Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the Bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley. He is a member of the Colorado State Bar Association Legal Ethics Committee and is a former adjunct professor of law. Robbins lectures for continuing legal education for attorneys in the areas of real estate, business law and legal ethics.

He may be heard on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. on KZYR radio (97.7 FM) as host of “Community Focus.” Robbins may be reached at 926-4461 or by e-mail at

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