Colorado Amendment 20

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Amendment 20
An Amendment to Article XVIII of the Colorado Revised Statutes Section 14. Medical use of marijuana for persons suffering from debilitating medical conditions.
Votes %
Yes 915,527 53.78%
No 786,983 46.22%
Amendment passed[1]
Year Significant marijuana related event[2]
2000 Colorado voters approve Amendment 20 by 54 percent.
2001 Colorado health department creates registry for patients.
2004 There are 512 patients on the registry.
2005 There are 730 patients on the registry.
2006 There are 1,040 patients on the registry.
2008 There are 4,720 patients on the registry.
2009 February – U.S. Fed says they will no longer raid medical marijuana operations.
2009 July - The state Health Board rejects caregiver patient limits.
2009 July - There are 11,094 patients on the registry.
2009 August - A jury acquits a patient with 17 times their legal limit.
2009 October - State court determines a caregiver must do more than just provide marijuana.
2009 November - Judge overturns the Board of Health decision to reconsider its rules.

Amendment 20 was an amendment to state statutes, submitted for referendum in the 2000 general elections in the U.S. state of Colorado. The amendment was adopted by 54% of participating voters. Under the law, patients may possess up to 2 ounces of medicinal marijuana and may cultivate no more than six marijuana plants (three flowering plants) at a time. Patients who are caught with more than this in their possession may argue "affirmative defense of medical necessity" but are not protected under state law with the rights of those who stay within the guidelines set forth by the state.[4]


In the years immediately leading up to the Amendment's adoption there was a newfound interest in medical marijuana research. Between 1996 and 2000 eight states approved some form of medical marijuana use.[3] Advocates and opponents both pointed to scientific evidence to make their case.[3] The director of the white house office National Drug Control policy sought clear answers and so they asked a non-governmental body the Institute of Medicine to reviewed the medical data. After eighteen months and considering more than five hundred scientific papers the IOM found that there was remarkable consensus for the potential of cannabinoid based drugs for medical use and almost no data about any proven benefits.[3]


Ten years after the popular adoption of the referendum and the press is already calling it marijuana country.[4] As of April 20, 2010 Denver has two hundred fifty medical marijuana dispensaries in operation and Boulder had one hundred. More than sixty thousand patients held red cards with a six-month waiting list to be added to the growing registry.[4] Experts estimated there may be as many as 100,000 patients in the system.[4]

For a patient to access the system they need to get a "doctor's recommendation", which differs from a prescription. This recommendation can be had for about one hundred fifty dollars and may consist of a five to 10-minute conversation.[4] The state recognized recommendation, called a "red card" due to its red color, can be used at any marijuana dispensary in the state; though naming a single marijuana dispensary as a patient's "caregiver' often affords the patient discounts on medicine.[4]

Text of referendum[edit]

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado Constitution authorizing the medical use of marijuana for persons suffering from debilitating medical conditions, and, in connection therewith, establishing an affirmative defense to Colorado criminal laws for patients and their primary care-givers relating to the medical use of marijuana; establishing exceptions to Colorado criminal laws for patients and primary care-givers in lawful possession of a registry identification card for medical marijuana use and for physicians who advise patients or provide them with written documentation as to such medical marijuana use; defining "debilitating medical condition" and authorizing the state health agency to approve other medical conditions or treatments as debilitating medical conditions; requiring preservation of seized property interests that had been possessed, owned, or used in connection with a claimed medical use of marijuana and limiting forfeiture of such interests; establishing and maintaining a confidential state registry of patients receiving an identification card for the medical use of marijuana and defining eligibility for receipt of such a card and placement on the registry; restricting access to information in the registry; establishing procedures for issuance of an identification card; authorizing fees to cover administrative costs associated with the registry; specifying the form and amount of marijuana a patient may possess and restrictions on its use; setting forth additional requirements for the medical use of marijuana by patients less than eighteen years old; directing enactment of implementing legislation and criminal penalties for certain offenses; requiring the state health agency designated by the governor to make application forms available to residents of Colorado for inclusion on the registry; limiting a health insurer's liability on claims relating to the medical use of marijuana; and providing that no employer must accommodate medical use of marijuana in the workplace?[1]



Groups in favor of Amendment 44 include Sensible Colorado, a group favoring the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana much in the same manner as alcohol.,[5] the state Libertarian Party,[6] and the US Marijuana Party, among others.

Supporters argue that the War on Drugs has failed, resulting in the empowerment of organized crime, and that a new more effective policy is needed. It is argued that legalizing small amounts of marijuana would free law enforcement resources to deal with more serious offenses. Some supporters also consider marijuana to be less harmful then other types of illegal narcotics, alcoholic beverages or tobacco use.[7]


Groups opposing Amendment 44 include Guarding Our Children Against Marijuana (GOCAM), Drug Watch Colorado, and Students Against Marijuana, among others.[7]

Opponents argue that marijuana serves as a gateway drug to other types of illegal narcotics, and that legalization of marijuana would increase other types of drug use and make the state a magnet for addicts; however, there is no evidence marijuana is a gateway drug.[8][9][10][11] It is argued that as with alcohol, sobriety is the only safe alternative, and existing drug laws should be enforced. Opponents also state that the costs of enforcement are minimal compared to the costs of drug addiction and treatment, as well as the fact that legalization at the state level would not affect federal laws and international treaties concerning marijuana.[7]

Some employees of the Drug Enforcement Administration were reported to have been financing opposition to Amendment 44, a move which generated significant controversy.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Ballot History : 2000 : Medical use of marijuana". Retrieved 2016-11-26.
  2. ^ "Medical marijuana industry's growth spurs backlash". Colorado Daily. 2009-11-14. Retrieved 2016-11-26.
  3. ^ a b c Mack, Alison, and Janet Joy. Marijuana As Medicine?:: The Science Beyond the Controversy. National Academies Press, 2000.
  4. ^ a b c d e Reuteman, Rob (2010-04-20). "Medical marijuana business is on fire -". Archived from the original on 2015-03-31. Retrieved 2016-11-26.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  5. ^ "Colorado Marijuana Initiative". Sensible Colorado. Archived from the original on 2005-02-05. Retrieved 2006-09-07.
  6. ^ "Ending the game of Marijuana prohibition in Colorado" (PDF). Sensible Colorado. Libertarian Party of Colorado. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-09-06. Retrieved 2006-09-07.
  7. ^ a b c "Amendment 44 Marijuana Possession" (PDF). Colorado Ballot Analysis, Final Draft. Colorado General Assembly. Retrieved 2006-09-07.
  8. ^ MacCoun, Robert; Reuter, Peter (2001). "Evaluating alternative cannabis regimes" (PDF). British Journal of Psychiatry. 178: 123–128. doi:10.1192/bjp.178.2.123. Retrieved 2007-03-31.
  9. ^ Jennifer McNulty (2004-05-03). "Dutch drug policies do not increase marijuana use, first rigorous comparative study finds". UC Santa Cruz Currants. Archived from the original on 2007-03-11. Retrieved 2007-03-20.
  10. ^ Reinarman, Craig (2004). "The Limited Relevance of Drug Policy: Cannabis in Amsterdam and in San Francisco" (PDF). American Journal of Public Health. 94: 836–842. doi:10.2105/ajph.94.5.836. PMC 1448346. Retrieved 2007-03-20.
  11. ^ "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base". National Academies Press. 1999. Retrieved 2007-03-30.
  12. ^ "DEA should keep out of state politics". Rocky Mountain News. 2006-08-30. Archived from the original on 2006-09-01. Retrieved 2006-09-07.