Colorado Marijuana Law

Medical Marijuana

  • 2 oz useable; 6 plants (3 mature).
  • Doctor permission/state registry.

Recreational Use

  • In 2012, Colorado became one of the first states in the nation to legalize possession for recreational use.
  • Public consumption still prohibited.

Criminal Penalties


< 2oz: No penalty

2-12 oz: Misdemeanor – up to 18 months

> 12 oz: Felony – up to 1.4 years.

Public display: Petty offense – up to 15 days


Felony – 1 to 12 years


< 6 plants: No penalty

> 6 plants: Felony – up to 6 years

Colorado’s medical marijuana law has been on the books since 2000, when Ballot Amendment 20 passed with 54 percent of the vote. Patients who suffer from a debilitating condition and have documentation from their physician are protected form state prosecution for use, possession or cultivation of marijuana.

Medical conditions for which marijuana provides approved treatment include HIV/AIDS, severe pain or nausea, seizures, muscle spasms or other conditions approved by the Colorado Board of Health.

Those in possession of a Medical Marijuana Registry card may possess up to two ounces of usable marijuana and not more than six plants (three or fewer mature plants). Medical necessity is an affirmative defense that may be argued by those patients caught without a registry card or with more marijuana than permitted under the law.

In 2004, the Colorado Board of Health limited medical marijuana caregivers to caring for no more than five patients; that ruling was overturned by a district judge in 2007. The following year, Denver voters passed a measure legalizing possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults over the age of 21.

By 2010, several other communities – including Breckenridge and Nederland – had taken steps to legalize marijuana. The Nederland voter-passed initiative removed all criminal penalties associated with sale, purchase, possession, growth, consumption or transportation. In 2012, Amendment 64 legalized recreational pot use statewide for adults over the age of 21. The law permits possession of up to one ounce.

Medical Marijuana Law in Colorado

The law had practical limitations in Colorado until 2010 when amendments established a regulatory framework for dispensaries. Changes also permitted local communities to ban or restrict operation, location and ownership of medical marijuana businesses.

Today, an estimated 1,000 medical-marijuana businesses now operate in Colorado, including dispensaries and makers of marijuana products. By 2013, a reduction in marijuana-related businesses began to signal the possible maturing of the industry, which serves about 100,000 patients and had gross sales in 2011 of nearly $200 million.

In many cases, the industry is facing the same pressures our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers face on behalf of Southern California dispensaries: The intrusion of federal law enforcement and pressure applied by banks and landlords.

Colorado also became one of the first states to attempt to quantify driving under the influence of marijuana, with a five nanogram THC limit. Opponents argued the limit was too low and would automatically put regular users over the threshold.

Colorado employees who use medical marijuana may not enjoy legal protection. In 2012, the state Supreme Court declined to review a case in which a judge refused to grant protection to an employee after he has fired based on his employer’s zero-tolerance drug policy.

In 2013, the Colorado Marijuana Taskforce made more than 50 recommendations following passage of Amendment 64, the state’s legalization initiative. Recommendations include establishment of a new Marijuana Enforcement Division, a prohibition on out-of-state residents obtaining grower’s licenses, limits on the size of cultivation facilities, and child-proof packaging.

While Colorado joins California as the nation’s most progressive states when it comes to marijuana laws, those in the medical marijuana industry must still rely upon experienced legal help to protect their rights.

Colorado Marijuana News Archive

Group forms to oppose Colorado marijuana stores, Denver Post, March 15, 2013.

Colorado’s Marijuana Muddle, The New York Times, Jan. 13, 2013.

Cannabis Law Group's Medical Marijuana Legal Blog - Colorado marijuana lawyers
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