November 30, 2023 5 min read

In recent years, Colorado has undergone substantial changes in its cannabis legislation, marking a transition from strict prohibition to pioneering the legalization of recreational marijuana use. Navigating the intricacies of these laws might seem complex, but we're here to provide clarity.

Join us as we delve into the specifics of Colorado's cannabis laws, covering essential aspects such as possession regulations, cultivation guidelines, penalties, and the nuances involved in obtaining and distributing both medical and recreational cannabis within the state. Let's dive right in:

Table of Contents
Is Cannabis Legal in Colorado?
Colorado Cannabis Laws
How the Legal Sale of Colorado Happens
Penalties for Marijuana-Related Crimes

Key Takeaways

  • Cannabis is legal for recreational and medical use in Colorado.
  • Adults can possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana, or more with medical recommendations.   
  • There are penalties for possessing more than the allowable amount of cannabis, for unlicensed sales, and for consuming in public spaces. 

Is Cannabis Legal in Colorado?

An example of medical cannabis oil in an amber bottle positioned near cannabis plant material.

Absolutely, both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana enjoy legal status in Colorado. The journey towards legalization began back in 2000 when the state approved medical marijuana. 

However, it wasn't until 2012, a decade later, that recreational marijuana got the green light. Amendment 20, solidified into Colorado's Constitution as Article XVIII, Section 14, marked the inception of medical marijuana legalization. Similarly, Amendment 64 paved the way for recreational marijuana and found its place in Colorado's Constitution as Article XVIII, Section 16.

The legalization of medical marijuana in Colorado was designed to cater to individuals grappling with severe medical conditions. Amendment 20 extended protective measures within Colorado's criminal laws, providing cover for patients and their primary caregivers regarding the medical use of marijuana. It also outlined protocols for obtaining an identification card, commonly referred to as a medical marijuana card. This amendment specifies the permissible form and quantity of marijuana a patient can possess while imposing restrictions on its usage.

On the other hand, Amendment 64 set forth stringent regulations governing the use, sale, and distribution of marijuana in Colorado, reserving these privileges exclusively for adults aged 21 and above.

Regulations for Medical Use in Colorado

There are regulations in place to govern how a medical marijuana patient in Colorado can possess and use cannabis. For instance:

  • Eligibility for medical marijuana use is governed by Article 18, Section 14 of the Colorado constitution and Title 12, Article 43.3 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (known as the "Colorado Medical Marijuana Code").
  • Individuals eligible for medical marijuana use must:
    • Be Colorado residents.
    • Be 18 years old or have parental consent and diagnoses from two doctors.
    • Use marijuana under a physician's advice to treat qualifying debilitating medical conditions. (See below for a list of qualifying conditions.)
  • Minors under 18 must meet specific requirements to obtain a medical marijuana card, including parental consent, diagnoses by two physicians, and a designated parental primary caregiver overseeing usage.
  • A primary caregiver must be 18 or older, a Colorado resident, not a health care provider, and not have a primary caregiver of their own. T
  • Possession limits include up to 2 oz. of usable marijuana and cultivating up to 6 marijuana plants, with no more than 3 being mature, flowering plants producing usable marijuana.
  • Cardholders may possess more than 2 oz. if medically necessary, receive benefit of the doubt during police encounters, join marijuana cooperatives for cultivation, and possibly access lower tax rates on medical marijuana purchases.

Qualifying Conditions and Regulations for Medical Cannabis in Colorado

The following qualifying conditions may qualify a person for an Colorado medical marijuana card (with a doctor’s recommendation):

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV
  • AIDS
  • severe pain
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • other approved conditions by the state health agency.

Colorado Marijuana Laws

In 2021, the Colorado Assembly introduced ten bills related to marijuana regulations, with eight successfully passing Legislature while two did not. The bills that made it through entail:

  1. Criminal Marijuana Offenses (HB21-1090): Eliminating possession offenses for possessing 2 ounces or less of marijuana by minors and allowing sealing of records for Class 3 felony marijuana cultivation convictions.
  1. Correcting Errors in the Colorado Marijuana Code (HB21-1178): Addressing nonsubstantive errors in the state's marijuana laws.
  1. Unemployment Insurance Marijuana-licensed Business (HB21-1204): Treating a marijuana-licensee-owned business offering employment services to a regulated marijuana business as an individual employing unit.
  1. Marijuana Licensees Ability to Change Designation (HB21-1216): Allowing changes in marijuana designation from recreational to medical without a refund of retail marijuana excise tax, among other provisions.
  1. Cannabis Outdoor Cultivation Measures (HB21-1301):Convening a committee to review existing tax laws for large-scale marijuana cultivation, potentially preparing for interstate trade upon federal legalization.
  1. Regulating Marijuana Concentrates (HB21-1317):Prohibiting targeted medical marijuana ads for 18 to 20-year-olds, mandating warnings on medical marijuana overdose in concentrate advertisements, limiting concentrate sales per day, and requiring thorough medical history assessment before recommending medical marijuana.
  1. Expand Cannabis-based Medicine at Schools (SB21-56):Shifting responsibility from school principals to school boards for policies on possession, administration, and storage of cannabis-based medicine at schools, providing disciplinary protection to administering personnel.
  1. Program to Support Marijuana Entrepreneurs (SB21-111): Establishing an Office of the Economic Development and International Trade program to assist social equity licensees in the marijuana industry as outlined in the Colorado Marijuana Code.

How Cannabis is Bought and Sold in Colorado

In Colorado, both medical and recreational marijuana sales are legal but require licenses from the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) for businesses to operate. Counties and cities decide on allowing recreational dispensaries. Dispensaries serve adults aged 21 or older, selling up to 2 ounces per customer.

Where to Buy:

  • Medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries
  • Need licenses from the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED)
  • Local city and county regulations may vary

How to Buy:

  • Available to adults 21 years and older
  • Maximum purchase of 2 ounces per customer
  • Photo ID verification required for age confirmation

Penalties for Marijuana-related Crimes in Colorado

When it comes to marijuana-related infractions in Colorado, the following penalties and legal implications are pertinent:

Possession Penalties

Private possession:

  • Possession of two ounces or less: No penalty for private possession.
  • Possession of 2-6 ounces for personal use: Misdemeanor with up to 364 days in prison and up to $1,000 fine

Possession with intent to sell based on quantity:

  • More than 4 ounces: Misdemeanor, 6-18 months incarceration, $5,000 fine
  • More than 4-12 ounces: Felony, 6 months to 2 years incarceration, $100,000 fine.
  • More than 5 pounds: Felony, 4-12 years incarceration, $750,000 fine

Cultivation Penalties

  • Cultivation of up to six plants (private premises): No penalty.
  • Cultivation of more than 6 but less than 30 plants: Felony, 6 – 18 months prison, $100,000 fine.
  • Cultivation of more than 30 plants: Felony, 2-6 years prison, $500,000 fine.

Legal Cannabis and Buy Online Alternatives

Although cannabis is legal in many states, hemp-derived THC products are still rising as a noteworthy alternative thanks to their affordability and accessibility. Hemp-derived THC products are federally legal, unlike traditional marijuana products, meaning they can often be ordered online and shipped right to your door. Read “Is Delta-8 Legal? A State by State Guide to Delta-8-THC Laws” to learn more about hemp THC laws near you, then check out our Elev8 and Cloud9 Collections.

Vida Optima Delta-9-THC Gummies


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