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Current Laws in Colorado & Federally Surrounding Cannabis

Written on March 2, 2023
Current Laws in Colorado & Federally Surrounding Cannabis

What you need to know about the legality of cannabis in Colorado and beyond.

Guest post by Sharon Feldman and the law firm Anaya & Chadderdon, P.C. 

With positive attitudes towards cannabis continuing to grow in the U.S., more and more states are choosing to legalize it. Colorado legalized medical marijuana back in 2000, and was then one of the first states (along with Washington) to legalize recreational use in 2012. However, despite many states following in Colorado’s footsteps, cannabis is still illegal at the federal level. Keep reading to learn all the relevant laws, as well as the penalties for breaking them.

Colorado Cannabis Laws

Cannabis is legal for medical and recreational use in Colorado, but there are still relevant laws and restrictions. For example, employers are allowed to drug test and make employment decisions based on drug use. Keep reading to learn more about Colorado’s marijuana laws.

Age Restrictions

Medical cannabis can be bought and used by those 18 and over, once they obtain a medical card. To purchase, possess, or use recreational cannabis in Colorado, you must be 21 years or older. This is verified by identification at the time of purchase. Adults are allowed to possess up to two ounces of cannabis at a time.

Buying, Possessing, & Using Cannabis

Cannabis can only be purchased legally from a licensed store, and even licensed stores can only sell one ounce of marijuana to a customer at a time. There are also hours of sale restrictions – dispensaries can only be open between 8am and midnight. Cannabis must be sold in child-proof, resealable packaging with proper labeling. It is a felony charge to sell or provide a minor with cannabis.

Those 21 and over can also grow up to six cannabis plants, as long as no more than three are mature at once. Adults are also legally allowed to give up to two ounces of marijuana to other adults, as long as it’s not a sale.

Public use of cannabis is not legal anywhere in Colorado, including on sidewalks. There are very strict laws against using marijuana on federal land, such as national parks and forests. It must be consumed on private property, assuming the property owner or landlord allows it. 

You also cannot bring cannabis that you purchased in Colorado to another state, or to the airport.

Driving While on Cannabis

It is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana, in Colorado and every other state. In fact, you can get a DUI even if you aren’t currently high on cannabis. The law dictates that if you have five or more nanograms of THC in your blood, you can be charged with a DUI. This applies even if you were using cannabis for medicinal purposes.

A DUI conviction can result in a fine of $600-$1000, five days to one year in jail, a driver’s license suspension, and community service. And that’s just for a first conviction.

Federal Cannabis Laws

At a federal level, cannabis is still illegal. It is categorized as a Schedule I drug, alongside LSD and heroin. A Schedule I classification means that these drugs have a high potential for abuse and no medicinal purpose, which obviously many states disagree with.

In December 2020, the House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, proposing to remove marijuana from the Schedule I drug classification. The bill ultimately did not pass the senate.

Currently, it is a misdemeanor to possess any amount of marijuana, with a first offense resulting in up to one year in jail and $1,000 in fines. Growing and/or selling marijuana is a felony, resulting in at least 5 years of jail time and at least $250,000 in fines.

Getting Help for Marijuana Addiction

Legal trouble and substance abuse often go hand in hand. If you or a loved one are dealing with legal repercussions related to cannabis, consider looking into our marijuana addiction program. Despite the misconception that it’s impossible to get addicted to cannabis, there is such a thing as Marijuana Use Disorder, which affects roughly 5.9 percent of young adults. Reach out to our treatment professionals to learn more

Author Bio: Sharon Feldman is a legal writer working closely with Colorado Springs law firm Anaya & Chadderdon, P.C. When not writing, Sharon can be found walking her dog or rock climbing.