Colorado law permits adults 21 and older to grow up to 6 marijuana plants, with no more than 3 being mature plants. Homes with two or more adults can have no more than 12 marijuana plants. A first-time offense of possessing more than 12 plants is a level 1 drug petty offense, punishable by up to $1,000.
In this article, our Denver Colorado criminal defense attorneys answer these frequently-asked-questions:
- 1. How much marijuana can I grow in Colorado?
- 2. Can people under 21 grow marijuana?
- 3. What are the penalties for illegal cultivation?
- 4. How do I fight the charges?
- 5. How many plants can you grow in Colorado legally with a medical card?
- 6. How soon can the criminal record be sealed?
- 7. Will I get deported?
- 8. Are grow houses legal in Colorado?
- 9. How much is a grow license in Colorado?
- 10. Can I grow 99 plants in Colorado?
1. How much marijuana can I grow in Colorado?
Colorado marijuana law permits adults 21 and older to home grow up to six cannabis plants in a residence as long as:
- No more than 3 of the plants are mature and flowering; and
- The plants are in an enclosed and locked space; and
- The plants are not visible from the outside, such as through a window.
And home growers may not keep more than 12 marijuana plants in their residence, even if more than two adults live there.
If a person under 21 lives in the home, the area where the marijuana is grown must itself be enclosed and locked. And if a person under 21 enters the home, access to the homegrown marijuana must be reasonably restricted from him or her.1
Colorado’s legalization of the recreational use of marijuana happened only in 2012 with the passage of Amendment 64. Adults 21 years old and older now may possess up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use.2
2. Can people under 21 grow marijuana?
No. Colorado law prohibits people under 21 years of age from growing or possessing recreational marijuana.
Note that people under 21 convicted of possessing pot or of marijuana use face a petty offense charge for being a minor in possession (CRS 18-6-701). Penalties increase with each successive conviction:
|First time conviction|| |
|Second time conviction|| |
|Third time of subsequent conviction|| |
3. What are the penalties for illegal cultivation?
A first-time conviction of growing more than 12 plants is a level 1 drug petty offense under Colorado state law, punishable by up to $1,000.
A subsequent illegal cultivation offense is a level 1 drug misdemeanor if there were no more than 24 plants. The sentence is six-to-18 months in county jail and/or fines of $500 to $5,000.
But if there were more than 24 plants, a subsequent illegal cultivation offense is a class 3 drug felony. The sentence is two-to-four years in Colorado State Prison and/or fines of $2,000 to $500,000. But the prison term becomes four-to-six years if there are aggravating factors. Examples are if the defendant was:
- on parole,
- on probation or bond for another felony,
- in confinement for a felony, or
- an escapee from confinement for a felony4
4. How do I fight the charges?
A common defense to marijuana cultivation charges is that the police found the plants through an illegal search and seizure. If the defense attorney can show the judge that law enforcement violated the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights, then the judge may suppress all evidence of the plants. And this may leave the D.A. with too little evidence to prosecute.
Another potential defense is that the plants did not belong to the defendant, and the defendant exercised no physical control over them. Unless the defendant owned or possessed the plants, then the charges should be dismissed.
5. How many plants can you grow in Colorado legally with a medical card?
The maximum 12-plant per household rule applies to card-holding medical marijuana patients and caregivers, but there are exceptions. Patients can possess up to 24 plants at home if they:
- live in a city or county that does not limit the number of marijuana plants that can be grown in a residential property; and
- register with the state licensing authority; and
- provide notice to the city or county, if required by the jurisdiction.5
6. How soon can the criminal record be sealed?
The wait time to seal criminal records in Colorado depends on the type of conviction.
Waiting time to seal records
|Drug petty offense||1 year after the case ends.|
|Class 1 misdemeanor||2 years after the case ends.|
|Class 3 drug felony||3 years after the case ends.|
And charges that get dismissed can be sealed immediately.6
7. Can I be deported?
Drug crimes always carry the risk of deportation for non-citizen defendants. Immigrants facing any criminal charges are encouraged to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible to try to get the charges dismissed or changed to a non-deportable crime.7
Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Colorado.
8. Are grow houses legal in Colorado?
Yes, with the applicable licenses. Go to the Colorado government’s official cannabis site as well as county government websites for information on the requirements, applications, fees, licenses, and renewals for creating a professional marijuana farm or a retail marijuana dispensary to sell THC / marijuana products.
Each cultivation facility is assigned a different tier depending on the number of plants it has:
- Tier 1: 1 to 1,800 plants
- Tier 2: 1,801 to 3,600 plants
- Tier 3: 3,601 to 6,000 plants
- Tier 4: 6,001 to 10,200 plants
- Tier 5: 10,201 to 13,800 plants
People in the marijuana business who violate the law face not only criminal penalties. There also may be civil penalties imposed by the applicable agencies and the Department of Revenue.8
9. How much is a grow license in Colorado?
Colorado’s application fee for a cultivation facility is $4,000. The annual renewal fee depends on the number of marijuana plants.9
10. Can I grow 99 plants in Colorado?
Medical marijuana patients in Colorado can grow up to 99 plants on a non-residential property in accordance with local law.10 But they should get an extended plant count first by contacting the medical marijuana registry.
Note that growing marijuana can be dangerous, especially if the lighting equipment catches fire or if the carbon dioxide generator was meant for outdoor instead of indoor usage. Growers are advised to wear PPE (personal protective equipment) when handling pesticides. They should hire a licensed electrician to install the equipment in a way that minimizes fire hazards.
- Article XVIII, section 14 of the Colorado Constitution. CRS 18-18-406. See also People v. Garcia-Gonzalez (Court of Appeals of Colorado, Division Two, 2020) 2020 COA 166.
- CRS 18-18-406.
- CRS 18-6-701.
- See note 2.
- CRS 25-1.5-106. See also People v. Cox (Court of Appeals of Colorado, Division One, 2021) 2021 COA 68.
- CRS 72-24-701 – 708.
- 8 USC 1227.
- 1 Colo. Code Regs. § 212-3-6-720; see also MED Licensed Facilities, Department of Revenue.
- See, e.g., Pueblo County Code 5.12.180 Fees.
- CRS 25-1.5-106.