In 2012, Colorado passed Amendment 64 and became one of the first states in the country to legalize recreational marijuana use. That doesn’t mean you can’t still get in trouble. Legalizing weed allowed the state to regulate how, where, and by who it can be enjoyed. When it comes to Colorado marijuana laws, it’s best to know the rules before you buy.
So before you spark up, read up.
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The Basics of Marijuana Use in Colorado
Only adults over the age of 21 can purchase, possess, and enjoy recreational marijuana. This is a bold-line rule that the state enforces.
Even for adults, there are caveats and exceptions, such as:
- It is illegal to possess more than 2 ounces of marijuana at any time. That’s double what adults had been allowed to have for the first nine years since legalization. The state increased the amount to 2 ounces with HB21-1090 in the fall of 2021. If you aren’t sure how much two ounces are, it’s between 35 to 50 joints depending on how they’re rolled.
- Marijuana can only be purchased from licensed adult-use dispensaries. There are more than 500 of them across Colorado, and they offer a variety of other products besides smokable marijuana such as wax, flower, gummies, ointments, and tea.
- You cannot legally purchase any marijuana product without valid identification, such as a driver’s license or passport, to verify your age.
Where Can Marijuana Be Used?
Many people who are either visiting as tourists or have just moved to Colorado assume they can light up anywhere in the state. You cannot. The breathtaking scenery and laid-back lifestyle enjoyed by many Coloradans can make “getting high” in the great outdoors an even more tempting idea.
Don’t do it.
While marijuana use is legal in Colorado, it is still a federal crime, and national parks and forests are on federal land. If you’re caught smoking a joint at, say, Rocky Mountain National Park, you could be cited and fined. Other federally-governed areas can include:
- military bases
- biking trails
- hiking trails
- ski resorts
More than a quarter of all the land in Colorado is federal property, so always be aware of where you’re standing before lighting up.
No Puffing in Public
Colorado has many “hospitality businesses” — social clubs, tasting rooms, cafes — where customers can relax and enjoy using marijuana with friends in a cozy, encouraging environment. There are even scenic tours and yoga classes where patrons are allowed to enhance their experience with marijuana.
However, you cannot use marijuana in public areas, such as:
- concert venues
- common areas of apartment buildings or condominium complexes
- public parks and amusement parks
- many businesses
Lighting a joint or munching an edible at any of the above places can get you ticketed and fined. In general, private property — especially your own — is your best bet for being able to enjoy any form of marijuana without worrying that you’re breaking a law.
The thing is, many private property owners can and do forbid any marijuana use on their land.
Private Property Control
Colorado does not prevent private entities from prohibiting marijuana use on their property:
Nothing in this section shall prohibit a person, employer, school, hospital, detention facility, corporation, or any other entity who occupies, owns or controls a property from prohibiting or otherwise regulating the possession, consumption, use, display, transfer, distribution, sale, transportation, or growing of marijuana on or in that property. Amendment 64
Since many employers, apartment complexes, hotels, and other organizations may forbid the use or possession of marijuana, it’s best to check ahead to see if they are “420 friendly” before partaking on their premises.
If you live in an apartment complex that forbids the use and possession of marijuana, you could be in violation just by having marijuana inside your home. Also, many employers can still require a drug test and make employment decisions based on those results.
Never Use Marijuana in a Motor Vehicle
Colorado views using marijuana while driving as being the same as drinking and driving. It’s illegal. If you’re caught, you could face serious consequences.
Because Colorado uses expressed consent laws, any state highway patrolman or police officer can require you to submit a chemical sample if they suspect you of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The scan for marijuana is always a blood test. If more than .05 nanograms of THC are found in your blood, then you could meet the threshold for being charged with DUI.
Keep Dispensary Purchases Sealed and Out of Reach
After you’ve legally bought less than 2 ounces of bud from a licensed dispensary, keep it sealed and out of reach while driving back to wherever you plan to use it.
In Colorado, open container laws apply as much to marijuana as to alcohol. Therefore, you should never open a package of any type of marijuana inside your car. It’s best to keep all marijuana items sealed and in your trunk until you arrive at the place where you plan to use them.
It Stays in Colorado
Finally, do not transport any dispensary-bought marijuana products across state lines, especially if they contain THC. If you bought 2 ounces of marijuana in Colorado, but only used 1 ounce during your stay, you must discard the remaining supply before crossing the state line.
Facing Drug Charges? Talk to a Criminal Defense Lawyer.
Many people move to Colorado and use marijuana without understanding that legalization has its limits. If this is you, and you’ve landed in some legal hot water, then let’s talk. Robinson & Henry has a deep and experienced criminal defense team that can look into your situation and help you find the best way forward. Don’t take the rap. Call 303-688-0944 to begin your case assessment.