Cannabis policy of Colorado

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Cannabis dispensary in Denver

The cannabis policy of Colorado refers to cannabis (legal term marijuana) use and possession in Colorado, United States. The Colorado Amendment 64, which was passed by voters on November 6, 2012, led to legalization in January 2014.[1] The policy has led to cannabis tourism.[2] There are two sets of policies in Colorado relating to cannabis use: those for medicinal cannabis and for recreational drug use along with a third set of rules governing hemp.[3]

Cannabis and Hemp[edit]

General regulations for the legal commercial production and vending of marijuana in the state, which continue to be updated by the General Assembly, are published through the Marijuana Enforcement Division of the Department of Revenue[4]

Medical marijuana[edit]

On November 7, 2000, 54% of Colorado voters approved Amendment 20, which amended the State Constitution to allow the use of marijuana in the state for approved patients with written medical consent. Under this law, patients may possess up to 2 ounces of medical marijuana and may cultivate no more than six marijuana plants (no more than three of these mature 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.[5] Furthermore, doctors, when making a patient recommendation to the state can recommend the rights to possess additional medicine and grow additional plants, because of the patient’s specific medical needs. Conditions recognized for medical marijuana in Colorado include: cachexia; cancer; chronic pain; chronic nervous system disorders; epilepsy and other disorders characterized by seizures; glaucoma; HIV or AIDS; multiple sclerosis and other disorders characterized by muscle spasticity; and nausea. Additionally, patients may not use medical marijuana in public places or in any place where they are in plain view, or in any manner which may endanger others (this includes operating a vehicle or machinery after medicating). Colorado medical marijuana patients cannot fill prescriptions at a pharmacy because under federal law, marijuana is classified as a schedule I drug. Instead, patients may get medicine from a recognized caregiver or a non-state-affiliated club or organization, usually called a dispensary. Dispensaries in Colorado offer a range of marijuana strains with different qualities, as well as various "edibles" or food products that contain marijuana extracts. Certain dispensaries also offer patients seeds and "clones" for those who want to grow their own medicine.[6]

In April 2013, the Colorado Court of Appeals held in Coats v. Dish Network that since marijuana remains against federal law, employers can use that standard rather than state law as a rationale for banning off-the-job worker use, and are not bound by Colorado's Lawful Activities Statute:[7][8][9]

The primary question before us is whether federally prohibited but state-licensed medical marijuana use is "lawful activity" under section 24-34-402.5, C.R.S. 2012, Colorado's Lawful Activities Statute. If it is, employers in Colorado would be effectively prohibited from discharging an employee for off-the-job use of medical marijuana, regardless that such use was in violation of federal law. We conclude, on reasoning different from the trial court's analysis, that such use is not "lawful activity."

On June 10, 2016 Governor John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 16-1359. This bill stated that the court shall not prohibit the use or possession of medical marijuana as a condition of probation unless the individual is sentenced to probation for a conviction under Article 43.3 of Title 12, C.R.S.; or if the court determines based upon any material evidence that such a prohibition is necessary and appropriate to accomplish the goals of sentencing stated in 18-1-102.5, C.R.S.[10]

Recreational marijuana[edit]

Since the enactment of Colorado Amendment 64 in November 2012, adults aged 21[11] or older can grow up to six marijuana plants (with no more than half being mature flowering plants) privately in a locked space, legally possess all marijuana from the plants they grow (as long as it stays where it was grown),[12] legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana while traveling,[13] and give as a gift up to one ounce to other citizens 21 years of age or older. Any adult in Colorado's territory may possess up to one ounce of marijuana at any time, however non-Colorado residents may only purchase up to one-quarter of an ounce at a time.[14] Consumption is permitted in a manner similar to alcohol, with equivalent offenses proscribed for driving.[15] Consumption in public remains illegal.[16][17][18] Amendment 64 also provides for licensing of cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, and retail stores.[19] Visitors and tourists in Colorado can use and purchase marijuana, but face prosecution if found in possession in any adjacent state. Denver airport has banned all possession of marijuana but admits it has not charged a single person with possession nor has the airport seized any marijuana since the ban went into effect.[20][21]

Governor Hickenlooper signed several bills into law on May 28, 2013 implementing the recommendations of the Task Force on the Implementation of Amendment 64.[22][23][24][25] On September 9, 2013, the Colorado Department of Revenue adopted final regulations for recreational marijuana establishments, implementing the Colorado Retail Marijuana Code (HB 13-1317).[26] On September 16, 2013, the Denver City Council adopted an ordinance for retail marijuana establishments.[27][28] The state prepared for an influx of tourists with extra police officers posted in Denver. Safety fears led to officials seeking to limit use of the drug in popular ski resorts.[29] According to a Quinnipiac University poll released July 21, 2014, Coloradans continued to support the state's legalization of marijuana for recreational use by a margin of 54–43 percent. At the same time, the poll indicated 66 percent of voters there think marijuana use should be legal in private homes and in members-only clubs, but should not be legal in bars, clubs or entertainment venues where alcohol is served. Sixty-one percent of respondents also said laws regulating marijuana use should be as strict as laws regulating alcohol use.[30]


Hemp is defined as any form of the cannabis plant which has less than "3/10's of one percent" delta-9-THC. The state department of agriculture regulates hemp production.[3]

History of legalization effort[edit]

Marijuana was first criminalized in Colorado on March 30, 1917;[31][32] in November 1914 Colorado voters approved the 22nd Amendment to the Colorado Constitution, also known as the Prohibition Amendment, prohibiting alcohol beginning January 1, 1916;[33] and on December 18, 1917 the Eighteenth Amendment (establishing the Prohibition) was proposed by Congress.

News report from Voice of America about the business of Cannabis in Colorado - published March 20, 2015

During 2014, the first year of implementation of Colorado Amendment 64, Colorado's legal marijuana market (both medical and recreational) reached total sales of $700 million.[34] In September 2014, legislation was submitted by Alabama senator Jeff Sessions to ensure that Electronic Benefit Transfer cards could not be used to purchase marijuana, as the United States Department of Health and Human Services stated that their usage in marijuana shops was not prohibited.[35]

DUI - DWI Criminality[edit]

Like other states, driving while impaired by any drug is illegal in Colorado, though it took the legislature six attempts and three years to pass marijuana intoxication measures.[36] Ultimately the legislators decided on a nanogram limit in the bloodstream, though the number they picked was scoffed at by activists.[37] Today Colorado law states that juries may convict a person of marijuana intoxication if they have five or more nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, but defendants are allowed to argue that they were not intoxicated despite having such levels of THC in their bloodstream.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In Colo., a look at life after marijuana legalization Published by the Boston Globe, February 22, 2016
  2. ^ Jason Blevins The Denver Post (9 December 2015). "Marijuana has huge influence on Colorado tourism, state survey says". 
  3. ^ a b "Industrial Hemp". 
  4. ^ "Marijuana Enforcement". 
  5. ^ "Marijuana Law Reform". NORML. 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2011-04-20. 
  6. ^ CDPHE Archived May 21, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.‹The template Wayback is being considered for merging.› 
  7. ^ Ingold, John (25 April 2013). "Colorado court upholds firing for off-the-job medical marijuana use". The Denver Post. 
  8. ^ Roberts, Michael (26 April 2013). "Marijuana: Paralyzed MMJ patient plans Supreme Court appeal over DISH sacking". Westword. 
  9. ^ Coats v. Dish Network, 2013 COA 62 (25 April 2013).
  10. ^ "Bill Folder" (PDF). Colorado General Assembly. Colorado General Assembly. June 10, 2016. Retrieved October 12, 2016. 
  11. ^ "Marijuana Laws Colorado". 
  12. ^ Amendment 64: (3).b
  13. ^ Amendment 64: (3).a
  14. ^ Amendment 64:(3).a, 64:(3).b, and 64:(3).c
  15. ^ Amendment 64:(1).b-III and 64:(6).b
  16. ^ The Denver Post Editorial Board (30 September 2013). "In Colorado, you still can't smoke marijuana in public". The Denver Post. 
  17. ^ Caldwell, Alicia (19 October 2013). "Colorado must carefully define 'public consumption' of marijuana". The Denver Post. 
  18. ^ Lee, Kurtis (11 November 2013). "Denver to continue tweaks to public pot consumption law". The Denver Post. 
  19. ^ Amendment 64:(4)
  20. ^ "Despite ban, no marijuana seized and no citations at Denver airport". Retrieved 2016-04-02. 
  21. ^ "Where to buy legal Marijuana Shops, Maps, Laws". North Denver News. 20 March 2014. 
  22. ^ Flatow, Nicole (28 May 2013). "Six Ways Colorado Will Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol". Think Progress. 
  23. ^ "Gov. Signs Marijuana Bills Into Law". KKTV. AP. 29 May 2013. 
  24. ^ Kall, David M. (28 May 2013). "Legislature approves historic marijuana sales and excise taxes in Colorado". 
  25. ^ HB 13-1317 Implement Amendment 64 Majority Recommendation; HB 13-1318 Retail Marijuana Taxes; SB 13-283 Implement Amendment 64 Consensus Recommendations; HB 13-1325 Inferences For Marijuana And Driving Offenses; SB 13-250 Drug Sentencing Changes
  26. ^ Ingold, John (10 September 2013). "Colorado first state in country to finalize rules for recreational pot". The Denver Post. 
  27. ^ Meyer, Jeremy P. (17 September 2013). "Denver council passes historic retail marijuana rules and regulations". The Denver Post. 
  28. ^ Healy, Jack (1 January 2014). "Colorado Stores Throw Open Their Doors to Pot Buyers". The New York Times. 
  29. ^ Nick Allen (31 December 2013). "Colorado becomes first US state to sell cannabis". Retrieved 2 January 2014. 
  30. ^ "July 21, 2014 - Limit Marijuana To Home, Members-Only Clubs, Colorado Voters Tell Quinnipiac University Poll; 50% Back Supreme Court On Contraception". Quinnipiac University. Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  31. ^ Horner, Kylie (30 March 2012). "Marijuana criminalized in Colorado 95 years ago today: Unhappy anniversary?". Westword. 
  32. ^ Session Laws of Colorado. 21st Assembly. 1917. Ch. 39, p. 120. OCLC 1564150. 
  33. ^ Kreck, Dick (5 July 2009). "High, dry times as Prohibition era sobered Denver". The Denver Post. 
  34. ^ "Colorado's legal weed market: $700 million in sales last year, $1 billion by 2016". The Washington Post. February 12, 2015. Retrieved February 12, 2015. 
  35. ^ Miller, S.A. (9 September 2014). "Welfare recipients can use debit cards for marijuana". Washington Times. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  36. ^ "Marijuana DUI Bill Passes In Colorado Senate, Appears Poised To Become Law". The Huffington Post. 7 May 2013. 
  37. ^ Michael Roberts (8 May 2013). "THC driving limit's passage means pot critic William Breathes may never drive legally again". Westword. 
  38. ^ "Marijuana Laws in Colorado". Colorado Pot Guide. 

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