Colorado’s "Medical Marijuana" Laws
(including 18-18-406.3 C.R.S., unlawful use of a medical marijuana card)

marijuana buds spilling out of prescription bottle

Obtaining and using medical marijuana in Colorado

Article 18, section 14 of the Colorado constitution gives Colorado residents the right to use and grow marijuana to treat a debilitating medical condition. It also extends certain protections to people who act as the primary care-giver to medical marijuana patients.

Colorado law does not, however, confer upon any medical marijuana user or primary caregiver the right to sell or distribute marijuana or to possess, manufacture, produce, use, dispense or transport marijuana other than for medical use.

To help you better understand Colorado's medical marijuana laws, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:

A medical marijuana dispensary
A medical marijuana dispensary

1. Who may legally use medical marijuana in Colorado?

Medical marijuana use is governed by Article 18, section 14 of the Colorado constitution and Title 12, Article 43.3. of the Colorado Revised Statutes. This latter law is known as the “Colorado Medical Marijuana Code.”

You may legally use medical marijuana in Colorado if:

  • You are a Colorado resident,
  • You are 18 years old OR you have the consent of a parent and a diagnosis from two doctors, and
  • You are using marijuana under a physician's advice or recommendation to treat a “debilitating medical condition,” defined as:
    • Cancer, 
    • Glaucoma,
    • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV),
    • Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), or
    • A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition, which causes you to suffer:
    • Cachexia (wasting syndrome / severe weight loss); 
    • Severe pain; 
    • Severe nausea; 
    • Seizures (including those characteristic of epilepsy); 
    • Persistent muscle spasms (including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis); or
    • Any other medical condition approved by the state health agency, including in response to a patient or physician's petition.

2. Medical marijuana use by those under 18

If you are less than 18 years old, you must meet the following requirements in order to be able to receive a medical marijuana card:

  1. Two physicians have diagnosed you as having a debilitating medical condition;
  2. One of these physicians has explained the possible risks and benefits of medical use of marijuana to you and each of your parents who lives in Colorado;
  3. The physicians have provided you with the written documentation legally required by the state of Colorado;
  4. Each of your parents residing in Colorado has consented, in writing, to your use of medical marijuana;
  5. One of your parents residing in Colorado consents in writing to serve as your primary care-giver;
  6. Your parental primary care-giver has completed and submitted an application for a medical marijuana registry identification card;
  7. The Colorado state health agency approves your application and sends your registry identification card to the parent you have designated as a primary care-giver;
  8. You and your primary care-giver parent must collectively possess no more marijuana than you are entitled to possess; and
  9. Your primary care-giver parent controls the acquisition of such marijuana and the dosage and frequency of your use.

3. Who can be a primary caregiver?

A “primary care-giver” is someone with significant responsibility for managing the well-being of someone with a debilitating medical condition.
Merely supplying marijuana to a patient for medical use is insufficient, by itself, to qualify you as a primary caregiver.1

In addition to having responsibility for a medical marijuana patient's well-being, to be a Colorado medical marijuana primary caregiver you must:

  • Be 18 or older.
  • Be a Colorado resident.
  • Not be the patient's physician.
  • Not have a primary caregiver of your own.
  • Complete a Caregiver Acknowledgment Form for the patient to submit along with his or her completed application packet.

If the patient is under 18, you must be the patient's parent or legal guardian in order to be designated as the patient's primary caregiver.

4. How much medical marijuana can I possess?

Medical marijuana users and their primary caregivers may collectively possess only as much marijuana as is medically necessary for the patient's debilitating medical condition.

By law, however, the following limits are automatically considered legal:

  • Up to 2 oz. of a usable form of marijuana; and
  • Up to 6 marijuana plants, with no more than 3 being mature, flowering plants that are producing a usable form of marijuana.

If this amount is insufficient for your legitimate medical needs, you may possess more. If you are arrested for a violation of Colorado's marijuana laws, however, the burden will be on your to prove that amounts in excess of the foregoing were necessary.

Note that the possession of a Colorado medical marijuana identification card does not allow you to use or possess any synthetic cannabinoid (fake marijuana).

5. Advantages of obtaining a Colorado medical marijuana card

Since recreational use of marijuana is legal in Colorado for adults who are at least 18, you might be wondering if there is any reason to obtain a medical marijuana card.

Whether or not a marijuana registry identification card is desirable depends on your situation.

The major advantage to having a Colorado medical marijuana ID card is that it allows you to possess more marijuana than is legal for recreational users.

Recreational users may possess up to 1 oz. of flowers, or 8 grams of concentrate, or 800 mg. of edibles (or a proportional mix) as well as 6 plants (with no more than 3 mature). If your use falls within these limits, you may not need a card.

However, usable marijuana includes the seeds, leaves, buds, and flowers of the cannabis plant, as well as any mixture or preparation obtained therefrom. (It does not include the plants' stalks, stems, and roots).

A mature marijuana plant will often provide more than 1 oz. of usable marijuana. As a medical marijuana patient you may possess up to 2 oz., or more if medically necessary. So you receive a bit more protection in the even that your plants produce more than 1 oz. of usable marijuana.

You may also receive the benefit of the doubt if you are stopped by the police on suspicion of violating Colorado marijuana laws.

And finally, being a medical marijuana user may allow you to join a medical marijuana cooperative, which will grow your marijuana for you and give you access to a consistent quality of marijuana. You may also be subject to lower taxes on medical marijuana purchases.

6. How do I obtain a medical marijuana card in Colorado?

Colorado medical marijuana ID card

To apply for a Colorado medical marijuana identification card, you must complete the following documents and send them to the registry by certified mail or drop box:

If you have a caregiver you must also submit a caregiver acknowledgment form (see above). 

7. Punishment for fraudulently obtaining a Colorado medical marijuana card

Colorado 18-18-406.3 C.R.S. makes it a class 1 misdemeanor to do any of the following: 

  • Fraudulently represent a medical condition to a physician, or any Colorado government agency or law enforcement official for the purpose of falsely obtaining a marijuana registry identification card or avoiding arrest and prosecution for a marijuana-related offense;
  • Steal or fraudulently use an expired or another person's marijuana registry identification card;
  • Fraudulently produce, counterfeit or tamper with a marijuana registry identification card; or
  • Release or make public any confidential record or any confidential information provided to or by the marijuana registry or primary caregiver registry without the written authorization of the patient.

 Penalties for fraudulent use of a Colorado medical marijuana ID card can include:

  • 6 mos-18 months in jail, and/or
  • A fine of $500-$5,000.

In addition, your medical marijuana card will be revoked for one year.

8. Additional restrictions on medical marijuana users

No Colorado medical marijuana patient may:

  • Use medical marijuana in a way that endangers the health or well-being of any person; or
  • Use medical marijuana in plain view of, or in a place open to, the general public.2

A violation of these provisions can result in your Colorado medical marijuana ID card being revoked for one year.

And finally, note that no employer is required to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any work place.

Call us for help…

call center receptionist

If you or someone you know has been charged with a violation of Colorado's marijuana laws – including fraudulently using or obtaining a medical marijuana ID card – we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.

Our caring Colorado marijuana lawyers have a great deal of experience defending clients on marijuana and other drug charges.

During your free consultation, one of our experienced Colorado criminal defense attorneys will discuss the facts of your case and get started planning the best defense to your Colorado marijuana charges.

To reach one of our Colorado drug lawyers, simply fill out the form on this page, or call us at our centrally located Denver home office:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
1400 16th Street
16 Market Square
Denver CO 80202
720-955-6112


Legal references:

  1. People v. Clendenin, App.2009, 232 P.3d 210, rehearing denied, certiorari denied.
  2. Colorado Constitution, Article 18, Section 14 (4)(a).

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