Colorado Cannabis Law

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A Guide to Colorado Cannabis Laws

Cannabis is legal in Colorado for both medicinal and adult (recreational) use.

Possession – Personal Use

2 or or less

  • Penalty: No penalty
    • Incarceration: None
    • o   Max. Fine: $0

Transfer of 2 oz or less for no remuneration

  • Penalty: No penalty
    • Incarceration: None
    • o   Max. Fine: $0

More than 2 oz

  • Penalty: Petty offense
    • Incarceration: None
    • o   Max. Fine: $100

Open and public displays or uses of 2 oz or less

  • Penalty: Petty offense
    • Incarceration: None
    • o   Max. Fine: $100

More than 2-6 oz

  • Penalty: Misdemeanor
    • Incarceration: 0-12 months
    • o   Max. Fine: $700

More than 6-12 oz

  • Penalty: Misdemeanor
    • Incarceration: 6-18 months
    • o   Max. Fine: $5,000

More than 12 oz

  • Penalty: Felony
    • Incarceration: 1-2 years
    • o   Max. Fine: $100,000

With intent to Distribute

  • Possession of 8 oz or more is considered possession with the intent to distribute will enhance the sentence.

Sale or Distribution

4 oz or less

  • Penalty: Misdemeanor
    • Incarceration: 6-18 months
    • o   Max. Fine: $5,000

More than 4 oz – 12 oz

  • Penalty: Felony
    • Incarceration: 6 months – 2 years
    • o   Max. Fine: $100,000

More than 12 oz – 5 lbs

  • Penalty: Felony
    • Incarceration: 2 – 6 years
  • o   Max. Fine: $500,000

More than 5 lbs – 50 lbs

  • Penalty: Felony
    • Incarceration: 4-16 years
    • o   Max. Fine: $750,000

More than 50 lbs

  • Penalty: Felony
    • Incarceration: 8-32 years
    • Max. Fine: $1,000,000

Cultivation

6 plants or fewer

  • Penalty: No penalty
    • Incarceration: None
    • o   Max. Fine: $0

6 – 30 plants

  • Penalty: Felony
    • Incarceration: 6 months – 2 years
    • o   Max. Fine: $100,000

More than 30 plants

  • Penalty: Felony
    • Incarceration: 2 – 6 years
    • Max. Fine: $500,000

Hash and Concentrates

2 oz or less

  • Penalty: No penalty
    • Incarceration: None
    • o   Max. Fine: $0

2 – 3 oz

  • Penalty: Misdemeanor
    • Incarceration: 6 months – 18 months
    • o   Max. Fine: $5,000

More than 3 oz

  • Penalty: Felony
    • Incarceration: 6 months- 2 years
    • Max. Fine: $100,000

Distribute, Transfer, or Possess with Intent

2 oz or less

  • Penalty: Misdemeanor
    • Incarceration: 6-18 months
    • o   Max. Fine: $5,000

More than 2 oz – 6 oz

  • Penalty: Felony
    • Incarceration: 6 months – 2 years
    • Max. Fine: $100,000

More than 6 oz – 2.5 lbs

  • Penalty: Felony
    • Incarceration: 2-6 years
    • o   Max. Fine: $500,000

More than 2.5 lbs – 25 lbs

  • Penalty: Felony
    • Incarceration: 4-16 years
    • o   Max. Fine: $750,000

More than 25 lbs

  • Penalty: Felony
    • Incarceration: 8-32 years
    • Max. Fine: $1,000,000

Paraphernalia

Possession of paraphernalia

  • Penalty: Petty offense
    • Incarceration: N/A
    • Max. Fine: $100

Buying and Selling

You must be 21:

  • It’s illegal for people under 21 to buy, have or use retail marijuana.
    • It’s a felony for anyone to give or sell to, or share marijuana with, anyone under 21.
    • You must present a valid ID proving you’re 21 or older.

Limits to buying:

  • Buy retail marijuana only from licensed retail stores.
    • Adults over the age of 21 can buy and possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana at a time.

Limits to selling:

  • Only licensed retailers can sell marijuana products.
    • Adults over 21 can give up to 2 ounces of marijuana to another adult 21 or older, but can’t sell marijuana. This includes homegrown product.

Using and Having

No more than 2 ounces:

  • Adults 21 and older can have up to 2 ounces of marijuana. Having more can result in legal charges and fines.

Public use is illegal:

  • Using marijuana in any way — smoking, eating or vaping — isn’t allowed in public places. This includes the following outdoor and indoor areas, and many more:
    • Sidewalks.
    • Parks and amusement parks.
    • Ski resorts.
    • Concert venues.
    • Businesses.
  • Restaurants, cafes or bars.
    • Common areas of apartment buildings or condominiums.

Use on federal land is illegal:

  • Since marijuana is still illegal under federal law, you can’t use on federal land, including national parks and national forests. This includes ski slopes.

Where you CAN use:

  • Private property is your best bet. However, property owners can ban the use and possession of marijuana on their properties. If you rent, you may not be allowed to use marijuana in your home.
    • Hotel owners can ban the use and possession of marijuana on their properties, so you may not be able to use in a hotel room. Be sure to research the places you’ll be staying in Colorado.

Drug testing at work:

  • Despite legalization, employers can still test for marijuana and make employment decisions based on drug test results. Be sure you know your workplace policies before you use.

Point-of-sale regulations

  • You must present a valid ID proving you’re at least 21 years old, so be prepared.
  • No minors allowed:
    • According to the retail marijuana rules passed by the Department of Revenue, no one under 21 is allowed in the restricted portion of a retail store.
  • Limited hours of sale:
    • Under state rules, retail marijuana businesses can be open only between 8 a.m. and midnight. Municipalities can require stricter hours of operation, so be sure to check local laws before you head to a retailer.
  • Packaging requirements:
    • Retail and medical marijuana businesses are required to sell all marijuana products in packaging that’s resealable, child-resistant and not see-through. The packaging protects children, teens and adults from accidentally eating something that they don’t realize contains marijuana. Using the packaging from the store is an important first step in safe storage.
  • Labeling requirements:
    • The Department of Revenue requires that all retail marijuana products use the symbol pictured here on packaging. Teach your kids not to eat or drink anything with this symbol on the package. Also, adults who can’t read the ingredient label can use this symbol as a warning that the product contains marijuana.

Pregnant people

  • Marijuana use during pregnancy is unsafe and may have legal consequences.
    • Some hospitals test babies after birth for drugs. If your baby tests positive for THC at birth, hospitals may choose to notify child protective services.
    • Talk to your doctor early in your pregnancy about any marijuana use and safer alternatives if you were using to help with nausea.

Apply for or renew your medical marijuana registry card

https://cdphe.colorado.gov/apply-colorado-medical-marijuana-card

  • Your health care provider will write a provider certification for you and submit it electronically. Finish the rest of your application within 6 months of the date your provider certification was issued.
    • Get a printed copy of the provider certification for your records.
    • Ask your health care provider to check that all information on your certification is correct.
    • Submit a new provider certification each time you apply.
  • Information for minor applicants
    • All minor patients must see two providers and submit two physician certifications.
    • If the minor patient has a disabling medical condition, which includes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorders, and any condition for which a physician could prescribe an opioid, and the recommending physician is not the patient’s primary care physician, the physician should review the records of a diagnosing physician or a licensed mental health provider acting within his or her scope of practice. For more information please refer to C.R.S. 25-1.5-106 and House Bill 19-1028.
  • Information for first-time applicants aged 18-20
    • Effective Jan. 1, 2022 only first-time applicants in this age group will need to get provider certifications from two different providers at different medical practices.
    • If the applicant is homebound the providers do not need to be from different medical practices. If you are an applicant in this group, make sure both of your providers enter their certifications into the Medical Marijuana Registry system. Check to make sure all of your identifying information is correct and matches on both documents. Then, get copies of the certifications from your providers.

Adult Applying

  • Cards are available to Colorado residents and valid only in Colorado.
  • A valid Colorado ID or driver’s license. If you are applying online, make sure to have a JPEG or PDF copy of your physical, valid Colorado driver’s license or ID. You will upload this to your registration. We do not accept Colorado digital IDs from the MyColorado app.
  • Your social security number.
  • Caregiver’s registration ID if you are applying with a caregiver.
  • Credit card or bank account and routing number to pay the $29.50 application processing fee.

Only first-time applicants 18-20 years old

  • You will need two certifications from two providers at different medical practices. If you are homebound the providers do not need to be from different practices. Make sure both of your providers submit your certifications online and check to make sure your identifying information matches on both certifications.

A parent or legal representative applying on behalf of minor

  • Primary parent’s Colorado driver’s license or ID. If you are applying online, make sure to have a JPEG or PDF copy of your physical, valid Colorado driver’s license or ID. You will upload this to your registration. We do not accept Colorado digital IDs from the MyColorado app.
  • Minor’s social security number.
  • Primary parent’s social security number.
  • Certified copy of the minor’s state-issued birth certificate. If you need more information about certified documents please review our tips for submitting certified documentation.
  • Caregiver’s registration ID if parent is not the caregiver.
  • Minor patient consent form
  • Documentation to prove secondary parent status:
    • Secondary parent’s out of state ID if parent lives out of state.
    • Copy of secondary parent’s certified death certificate if parent is deceased.
    • Copy of a certified court-issued sole custody order if the secondary parent does not have any custody. If you need more information about certified documents please review our tips for submitting certified documentation
  • Credit card or bank account and routing number to pay the $29.50 application processing fee.
  • If you are applying online, make sure to have JPEG or PDF copies of all required documents. You will upload the documents to your registration.
  • Starting Jan. 1, 2022 if a patient’s provider authorizes them to purchase more than the statutory daily sales limit, they will need a Uniform Certification Form from the Marijuana Enforcement Division that has been completed by their recommending provider. The patient does not need to include this form with their application for a medical marijuana registry identification card as it is separate from the provider certification that is submitted to the Registry.

Health care provider qualifications

  • To recommend medical marijuana for all debilitating and disabling conditions in Colorado you must:
    • Be an M.D. or D.O.
    • Be in good standing and licensed to practice medicine in Colorado.
    • Have a valid, unrestricted DEA certification.
    • Have an online account to submit certifications.

Recommend medical marijuana for only disabling medical conditions

  • To recommend medical for only disabling medical conditions in Colorado you must:
    • Be one of the following types of advanced practice practitioners with prescriptive authority:
      • Dentist.
      • Physician assistant.
      • Advanced nurse practitioner.
      • Podiatrist.
      • Optometrist.
  • Be in good standing and licensed to practice in Colorado.
    • Have a valid, unrestricted DEA certification.
    • Have an online account to submit certifications.

Debilitating medical conditions

  • Only physicians with an MD or a DO are able to recommend medical marijuana for debilitating conditions.
  • A medical marijuana registry identification card issued for a debilitating medical condition will be valid for one year.

Debilitating conditions include:

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV or AIDS
  • Cachexia
  • Persistent muscle spasms
  • Seizures
  • Severe nausea
  • Severe pain

Disabling medical conditions

  • MDs, DO, dentists, and advanced practice practitioners with prescriptive authority are able to recommend medical marijuana to treat a disabling medical condition.
  • The recommending provider will decide how long the medical marijuana registry card will be valid based on the patient’s medical needs.

Disabling medical conditions include:

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • An Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Any condition for which a physician could prescribe an opioid

Recommending for minors

  • All minor applicants must submit two certifications from two different providers.
  • Minor patients diagnosed with a disabling medical condition, which includes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorders, and any condition for which a physician could prescribe an opioid,no longer need to provide a certification from a physician who is a board-certified pediatrician, child and adolescent psychiatrist, or family physician who attests to being part of the patient’s primary care team.
  • If you are a provider recommending medical marijuana for a minor patient who is diagnosed with a disabling medical condition and you are not the patient’s primary care provider, you must review the records of a diagnosing physician or a licensed mental health provider acting within his or her scope of practice.For more information please refer to C.R.S. 25-1.5-106 and House Bill 19-1028.

Impairment

  • For occasional consumers, using 10 mg or more of THC is likely to cause impairment. This impacts your ability to drive, bike or perform other safety-sensitive activities.
  • People may think that they’re “safer” drivers while stoned. However, research shows that driving while high may increase your risk of a crash since your reaction time is slower and your understanding of distance and speed is different. If you’re high, you shouldn’t drive, bike or operate machinery.
  • Smoking:
    • Wait at least six hours after smoking up to 35 mg of THC before driving or biking. If you’ve smoked more than 35 mg, wait longer.
  • Eating or drinking:
    • Wait at least eight hours after eating or drinking up to 18 mg of THC before driving or biking. If you’ve consumed more than 18 mg, wait longer.
  • Marijuana affects individuals differently.
    • These times are estimates based on research findings. If you’re unsure how marijuana will affect you, make other plans for transportation or don’t drive.
  • Multiple substances:
    • Using alcohol and marijuana at the same time is likely to result in greater impairment than either one alone.

Be careful where you travel

  • Keep it in Colorado.
  • Leaving the state with any marijuana product is against the law.
  • You can’t bring marijuana to Denver International Airport or any other airport.
  • Not in federal parks or on federal land:
  • Since marijuana is still illegal under federal law, you can’t use it on federal land, including national parks and national forests. This includes ski slopes.

Driving and Travelling

  • Driving while impaired is illegal and unsafe
  • Getting high before you drive can get you arrested for a driving under the influence (DUI) charge. This is true even though marijuana use is legal for adults in Colorado.
    • Similar to alcohol, there’s an established impairment level for marijuana in Colorado.
      • By law, drivers with 5 nanograms of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per milliliter of whole blood can be prosecuted for DUI.
    • Even if marijuana is used medically, officers can arrest you for impaired driving.
    • No open containers:
      • Neither drivers nor passengers are allowed to open any marijuana packaging and use the product while in a vehicle, even if you are not moving.
      • You can be charged with a traffic offense if the marijuana product seal has been broken, some of the product has been consumed and there’s evidence that it was used in the car.

Qualifying Conditions

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV/AIDS positive
  • Cachexia
  • severe pain
  • severe nausea
  • seizures
  • including those that are characteristic of epilepsy; or persistent muscle spasms, including those that are characteristic of multiple sclerosis. Other conditions are subject to approval by the Colorado Board of Health.

Tax Rate

  • Retail marijuana is subject to a 15 percent sales tax, levied on retail sales, and a 15 percent excise tax, levied on the first transfer of marijuana from a wholesaler to a processor or retailer.
  • Adult-use retail: Sales are subject to a 15% cannabis excise tax and any additional local taxes.
  • Medical marijuana: Sales are subject to a 2.9% state excise tax and any additional local taxes.
  • Wholesalers are additionally subject to a 15% excise tax, levied on the first transfer of marijuana to a processor or retailer.

Tax Exemptions

  • Medical marijuana is exempt from the 15 percent sales tax and 15 percent excise tax.
  • Marijuana taxes
  • A 15% retail sales tax at point of sale and a 15 percent excise tax was added to the wholesale price of retail marijuana (between cultivators and businesses).
  • These taxes don’t apply to medical marijuana.

Distribution

  • Via the Old Age Pension Fund, marijuana tax revenue is allocated to the General Fund.2 From the General Fund, revenue from the marijuana retail sales tax and excise tax are distributed differently.
  • Ten percent of the revenue from the 15 percent tax on marijuana retail sales is allocated to local governments and apportioned according to the percentage of marijuana retail sales occurring within city and county boundaries. The remaining 90 percent is allocated as follows:
    • 71.85% to the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund;
    • 15.56% to the General Fund; and
    • 12.59% to the State Public School Fund.
  • Revenue in the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund is required to be spent the year after it is collected and used for health care, health education, substance abuse prevention and treatment programs, and law enforcement.
  • The marijuana excise tax revenue is credited to the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) Fund. The BEST Fund is used to renew or replace deteriorating public schools. BEST grants are awarded on a competitive basis annually and funding is prioritized based on issues such as asbestos removal, building code violations, overcrowding, and poor indoor air quality.

Advertising

  • Cannabis companies are extremely limited in what language and images they can use in advertising. In order to continue attracting customers, businesses have to devise creative alternative marketing strategies to skirt these laws.
  • Colorado’s cannabis advertising laws can create obstacles for cannabis businesses that hinder their ability to reach a target audience. Social media platforms also censor cannabis content, making it difficult for cannabis companies to have a wide reach online.
  • A Colorado law stated that cannabis companies cannot advertise on television or radio without “reliable evidence that no more than 30% of the publication’s readership is reasonably expected to be under the age of 21.” This rule also applied to print and digital media.
  • Cannabis advertising is censored by social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok. Once the Flower Power Botanicals account was flagged for cannabis on Instagram, the platform continued to keep a close eye on the account, Mitchell said. He also said he attempted to advertise on TikTok, but after putting some funding into it, he was denied and did not receive a refund.
  • Cannabis businesses are also restricted in outdoor advertising, although Fort Collins did allow Flower Power Botanicals a simple billboard on Mulberry Street. Flower Power Botanicals also has two banners hanging at the intersection of Lemay Avenue and Duff Drive.
  • Advertising agencies also need to keep up on the current advertising laws to ensure their clients are protected.
  • These laws and restrictions have led cannabis companies to create marketing strategies that differ from noncannabis businesses. Dispensaries can sponsor community events as well as highways.
  • The Sponsor a Highway program is popular with dispensaries and has proved an effective way to expand reach without getting in legal trouble. Dispensaries can sponsor a stretch of highway by paying for its maintenance and, in exchange, place their logo on the highway.

R 1104 –Advertising: Television

  • Television Defined. As used in this rule, the term “television” means a system for transmitting visual images and sound that are reproduced on screens, and includes broadcast, cable, on-demand, satellite, or internet programming. Television includes any video programming downloaded or streamed via the internet.
  • Television Advertising. A Retail Marijuana Establishment shall not utilize television Advertising unless the Retail Marijuana Establishment has reliable evidence that no more than 30 percent of the audience for the program on which the Advertising is to air is reasonably expected to be under the age of 21.

R 1105 –Advertising: Radio

  • Radio Defined. As used in this rule, the term “radio” means a system for transmitting sound without visual images, and includes broadcast, cable, on-demand, satellite, or internet programming. Radio includes any audio programming downloaded or streamed via the internet.
  • Radio Advertising. A Retail Marijuana Establishment shall not engage in radio Advertising unless the Retail Marijuana Establishment has reliable evidence that no more than 30 percent of the audience for the program on which the Advertising is to air is reasonably expected to be under the age of 21.

R 1106 –Advertising: Print Media

  • A Retail Marijuana Establishment shall not engage in Advertising in a print publication unless the Retail Marijuana Establishment has reliable evidence that no more than 30 percent of the publication’s readership is reasonably expected to be under the age of 21.

R 1107 –Advertising: Internet

  • A Retail Marijuana Establishment shall not engage in Advertising via the internet unless the Retail Marijuana Establishment has reliable evidence that no more than 30 percent of the audience for the internet web site is reasonably expected to be under the age of 21. See also Rule R 1114 – Pop-Up Advertising.

R 1108 – Advertising: Targeting Out-of-State Persons Prohibited.

  • A Retail Marijuana Establishment shall not engage in Advertising that specifically targets Persons located outside the state of Colorado.

R 1109 – Signage and Advertising: No Safety Claims Because Regulated by State Licensing Authority

  • No Retail Marijuana Establishment may engage in Advertising or utilize signage that asserts its products are safe because they are regulated by the State Licensing Authority.

R 1110– Signage and Advertising: No Safety Claims Because Tested by a Retail Marijuana Testing Facility

  • A Retail Marijuana Establishment may advertise that its products have been tested by a Retail Marijuana Testing Facility, but shall not engage in Advertising or utilize signage that asserts its products are safe because they are tested by a Retail Marijuana Testing Facility

R 1111– Signage and Advertising: Outdoor Advertising

  • Local Ordinances. In addition to any requirements within these rules, a Retail Marijuana Establishment shall comply with any applicable local ordinances regulating signs and Advertising.
  • Outdoor Advertising Generally Prohibited. Except as otherwise provided in this rule, it shall be unlawful for any Retail Marijuana Establishment to engage in Advertising that is visible to members of the public from any street, sidewalk, park or other public place, including Advertising utilizing any of the following media: any billboard or other outdoor general Advertising device; any sign mounted on a vehicle, any hand-held or other portable sign; or any handbill, leaflet or flier directly handed to any person in a public place, left upon a motor vehicle, or posted upon any public or private property without the consent of the property owner.
  • Exception. The prohibitions set forth in this rule shall not apply to any fixed sign that is located on the same zone lot as a Retail Marijuana Establishment and that exists solely for the purpose of identifying the location of the Retail Marijuana Establishment and otherwise complies with any applicable local ordinances

R 1112– Signage and Advertising: No Content That Targets Minors

  • A Retail Marijuana Establishment shall not include in any form of Advertising or signage any content that specifically targets individuals under the age of 21, including but not limited to cartoon characters or similar images.

R 1113 – Advertising: Advertising via Marketing Directed Toward Location-Based Devices

  • A Retail Marijuana Establishment shall not engage in Advertising via marketing directed towards location-based devices, including but not limited to cellular phones, unless the marketing is a mobile device application installed on the device by the owner of the device who is 21 year of age or older and includes a permanent and easy opt-out feature.

R 1114 – Pop-Up Advertising

  • A Retail Marijuana Establishment shall not utilize unsolicited pop-up Advertising on the internet.

R 1115 – Advertising: Event Sponsorship

  • A Retail Marijuana Establishment may sponsor a charitable, sports, or similar event, but a Retail Marijuana Establishment shall not engage in Advertising at, or in connection with, such an event unless the Retail Marijuana Establishment has reliable evidence that no more than 30 percent of the audience at the event and/or viewing Advertising in connection with the event is reasonably expected to be under the age of 21.

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