Colorado’s two ounce limit for lawful marijuana possession applies to both recreational users and medical marijuana cardholders. Though medical marijuana cardholders can possess more than two ounces of cannabis if you can show that it is medically necessary.
To help you better understand Colorado’s medical marijuana laws, our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:
- 1. Who may legally use medical marijuana in Colorado?
- 2. Can people under 18 use medical marijuana?
- 3. Who can be a primary caregiver?
- 4. How much medical marijuana can I possess?
- 5. What are the advantages of obtaining a Colorado medical marijuana card?
- 6. How do I obtain a medical marijuana card in Colorado?
- 7. What is the punishment for fraudulently obtaining a Colorado medical marijuana card?
- 8. Additional restrictions on medical marijuana users
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 qualifying “debilitating medical condition,” defined as:
- 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.
If you are a minor less than 18 years of age, you must meet the following requirements in order to be able to complete the application process and receive a medical marijuana card:
- Two physicians have diagnosed you as having a debilitating medical condition;
- 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;
- The physicians have provided you with the written documentation legally required by the state of Colorado;
- Each of your parents residing in Colorado has consented, in writing, to your use of medical marijuana;
- One of your parents residing in Colorado consents in writing to serve as your primary caregiver;
- Your parental primary caregiver has completed and submitted an application for a medical marijuana registry identification card;
- The Colorado state health agency approves your application and sends your registry identification card to the parent you have designated as a primary caregiver;
- You and your primary caregiver parent must collectively possess no more marijuana than you are entitled to possess; and
- Your primary caregiver parent controls the acquisition of such marijuana and the dosage and frequency of your use.
A “primary caregiver” is someone with significant responsibility for managing your well-being. Merely supplying marijuana to you for medical use is insufficient, by itself, to qualify them as a primary caregiver.1
In addition to having responsibility for your well-being, a medical marijuana primary caregiver must:
- Be 18 or older.
- Be a Colorado resident.
- Not be your health care provider.
- Not have a primary caregiver of their own.
- Complete a Caregiver Acknowledgment Form for you to submit along with your completed application packet.
If you are under 18, the primary caregiver must be your parent or legal guardian.
If you have a medical marijuana card, you and your primary caregivers may collectively possess only as much marijuana as is medically necessary for your debilitating medical condition. This could be only an ounce of marijuana or a one-plant count.
By law, however, the following limits are automatically considered legal:
- Up to 2 oz. of a usable form of marijuana; and
- Cultivating 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 you 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).
Also note that public possession of marijuana remains a crime.
There are four benefits:
- If you have a medical marijuana card, you may possess more than two ounces of marijuana if you can show it is medically necessary.2
- As a cardholder, you may also receive the benefit of the doubt if you are stopped by the police on suspicion of violating Colorado marijuana laws.
- 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.
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:
- Colorado medical marijuana application form;
- Colorado medical marijuana Physician Certification;
- Colorado ID (Must be valid with DMV, such as a Colorado driver’s license) or Colorado proof of residency waiver;
- $15 check or money order or, if you are tax-exempt or your household income is no more than 185% of the Federal Poverty Level, a Colorado medical marijuana fee waiver with a certified copy of your current Colorado tax return.
If you have a caregiver you must also submit a caregiver acknowledgment form (see above).
Colorado 18-18-406.3 C.R.S. makes it a class 2 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:
- Up to 120 days in jail, and/or
- A fine of up to $750
In addition, your medical marijuana card will be revoked for one year.3
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.4
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 workplace.
For more information, visit the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), the Marijuana Enforcement Division of the Colorado Department of Revenue (cdor.colorado.gov), Amendment 64, and Medical Marijuana Centers – a list of licensed dispensaries where cardholders may purchase marijuana products and edibles with THC. Medical marijuana is subject to a sales tax.
To learn about Nevada medical marijuana laws, go to our article on Nevada medical marijuana laws.
- People v. Clendenin, App.2009, 232 P.3d 210, rehearing denied, certiorari denied. See also HB21-1317 (2021).
- CRS 18-18-406.3.
- CRS 18-18-406.3. Prior to March 1, 2022, this crime was a Colorado class 1 misdemeanor carrying 6 mos-18 months in jail, and/or a fine of $500-$5,000. SB21-271.
- Colorado Constitution, Article 18, Section 14 (4)(a). See also Colorado Amendment 64 (marijuana legalization).