A Guide to Colorado Marijuana Laws [Updated 2019]

Colorado marijuana laws iStock / AndrewSoundarajan

In 2012, Colorado became one of the first 2 states to legalize personal-use cannabis. Here is everything you need to know about Colorado’s marijuana laws.

Possession and Purchasing Limits

Personal-use cannabis is legally available for purchase, sale, possession, and use by adults aged 21 and older. A licensed cannabis retail store is the only legal place from which to purchase weed. To make a purchase, you must present a valid government-issued ID proving your age.

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Adults 21 and over are authorized to possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis on them at a time. Legally aged adults are also permitted to give up to 1 ounce of cannabis away, but they cannot sell pot (including homegrown marijuana) unless they are licensed with the state to do so and are complying with all state and county cannabis retail regulations.


The public consumption of pot is illegal regardless of its form. Cannabis cannot be inhaled or ingested in any public place including

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  • apartment and condominium common areas
  • restaurants, cafes, or bars
  • sidewalks
  • ski slopes
  • public parks
  • amusement parks
  • concert venues
  • federal land

Cannabis can be consumed on private property, however there may be some exceptions. Renters must follow their property owners’ lease agreements which are permitted to ban the consumption of marijuana.

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The consumption of pot in a hospitality property such as a hotel, inn, or rental is only permitted if the owners of the property allow it. Property owners are authorized to ban the use of cannabis on their properties.

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In early May 2019, Colorado lawmakers passed a bill that would authorize the licensure of public consumption areas. The framework for this new allowance is still being developed.

Although the recreational and medical use of cannabis are legal in Colorado, employers may require drug tests and make employment decisions based on the results.

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Cannabis During Pregnancy

Although pregnant women are not explicitly prohibited from purchasing or using cannabis, the law allows the government to intervene. If a newborn baby tests positive for THC at birth, Colorado’s law requires hospitals to contact child protective services. Separation from the baby may be a legal consequence.

Cannabis Transport and Delivery

Adults 21 and over may transport up to 1 ounce of cannabis in their vehicles if the following conditions are met:

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  • The cannabis product is locked away and in an unopened container. If the product seal is broken, you can be charged with a traffic offense.
  • If the product has been opened, it cannot be stored in the passenger/cabin area of the vehicle. It must be locked in the trunk.

In early May 2019, Colorado lawmakers passed legislation that would regulate cannabis delivery. The law is likely to be implemented sometime in 2020. 

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Driving Under the Influence

Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal in Colorado. Although there is no roadside device for the detection of THC, Colorado law enforcement officers trained as drug recognition experts will make arrests based on observed impairment.

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If a drug test detects 5 nanograms of active THC, you can be prosecuted for driving under the influence. If you refuse to take a blood test, you will be considered a high-risk driver. This status requires 2 years of mandatory ignition interlock and level two alcohol and therapy classes regardless of whether you are convicted of a crime or not. Even if using cannabis to medicate an illness, being impaired while driving can result in the following:

  • a charge of child abuse if a child is present in the vehicle
  • fail time
  • a $13,500+ fine
  • driver’s license suspension

Exporting Cannabis

According to Federal and state law, it is illegal to export or import cannabis from or to Colorado. Even if you are traveling to a state that has legalized cannabis, you are not authorized to take cannabis across state lines.

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If you are a Colorado resident, you must leave your cannabis at home if traveling out of the state. If you are visiting Colorado, you must either consume or safely discard of your cannabis product before arriving at the airport or crossing state lines to return home.

It is illegal to bring cannabis to an airport or federal land.

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Personal Cultivation

Colorado law authorizes residents aged 21 and older to grow up to 12 cannabis plants at home for personal use. Up to 3 of those plants may be flowering at a time. Counties and municipalities may have stricter limits.

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Homegrown cannabis must be stored in a locked, separate space that is inaccessible by minors and obstructed from public view. It cannot be grown outside.

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Up to 1 ounce of homegrown cannabis can be given away, but it cannot be sold.

Medical Marijuana in Colorado

Although cannabis is legal for personal use, medical patients may still seek to participate in the medical program. The program allows patients to access more cannabis than the recreational law permits.  Additionally, the age limits are less prohibitive. Adults aged 18 and over may participate, and pediatric patients may participate in the program if they and their primary guardian are Colorado residents.

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Adult and pediatric patients with one or more of the following qualifying, debilitating medical conditions may be eligible to participate in the Colorado Medical Marijuana Registry:

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV or AIDS
  • Cachexia
  • Persistent muscle spasms
  • Seizures
  • Severe nausea
  • Severe pain
  • Post traumatic stress disorder
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Any condition for which a physician could prescribe an opioid

The condition must be diagnosed by a physician the patient has a bona fide patient-doctor relationship. The physician must verify the information presented on the physician certification component of the application.

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A patient or physician may file a petition with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s State Board of Health to add a debilitating medical condition to the current list.

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Patients can apply for a medical marijuana card by mail or online.  There is a non-refundable $25 application processing fee that must be paid each time an application is submitted.

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Cannabis Legalization in Colorado: A Timeline

2000 – Colorado legalizes the limited use of cannabis for medical patients and their caregivers.

2010 – Colorado enacts the Colorado Medical Marijuana Code, the regulatory framework facilitating the distribution of medical cannabis

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2012 – Colorado becomes the first of 2 states in the world to legalize cannabis for personal use. Washington is the other state.

2019 – Colorado passes legislation that legalizes the regulation of cannabis delivery and public consumption facilities.

A Guide to Colorado Marijuana Laws [Updated 2019] was last modified: by