Colorado Marijuana Laws

Learn about Colorado Laws, Penalties and Charges for Marijuana use, sale, cultivation, distribution for medical and non medical users.

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Marijuana possession, sale, and distribution is regulated by both state and federal law. In Colorado, marijuana is regulated as a controlled substance. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-18-102.) But as of 2012, Amendment 64 made it legal under state law for adults (people 21 years old or older) to possess and cultivate certian amounts of marijuana for personal use. And while Colorado marijuana laws have changed, it is important to remember that federal law still classifies marijuana as an illegal controlled substance (although personal possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is unlikely to actually draw federal attention).

There may also be some exceptions to the following laws for medical marijuana possession and use. And, while not covered below, It is also a crime to drive under the influence of marijuana in Colorado.

To learn more about driving under the influence of marijuana, see Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in Colorado.

To understand Colorado's approach to medical marijuana, see Medical Marijuana in Colorado.

Colorado Marijuana Possession and Use Laws

Possession of more than one ounce of marijuana for personal (not public) use is a criminal offense. Penalties depend on the amount possessed.

More than one ounce, but less than two ounces. Possession, use, or display of more than one ounce, but less than two ounces is a class two petty offense. If convicted, a violator may face a fine of up to $100. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-18-406(1).)

Public display or use of less than two ounces. A person who openly and publicly displays, consumes, or uses two ounces of marijuana or less may be convicted of a class two petty offense; fined up to $100; and given up to 15 days in jail. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-18-406(3)(a)(I).)

Public display or use of more than two ounces. A person who publicly displays, consumes, or uses more than two ounces of marijuana, or any amount of marijuana concentrate (for example, hashish) is guilty of a class two misdemeanor, and is punished as described in the next section. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-18-406(3)(a)(II).)

Possessing between two and six ounces. Possession of two and six ounces is a class two misdemeanor; punishable with a fine between $250 and $1,000, between three and 12 months in jail, or both (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-18-406(4)(a)(I).)

Between six and 12 ounces, or less than three ounces of marijuana concentrate. This type of violation is a class one misdemeanor, punishable with between six and 18 months in jail, a fine of between $500 and $5,000, or both. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-18-406(4)(b)(I).)

More than 12 ounces, or more than three ounces of concentrate. This violation is a class six felony, punishable with between one to two years imprisonment, a fine between $1,000 and $100,000, or both. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-18-406(4)(c).)

Less than five pounds, or one pound of concentrate. This violation is a class five felony, punishable with between one and three years imprisonment, a fine between $1,000 and $100,000, or both. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-18-406(6)(b)(A).)

Between five and 100 pounds, or one and 100 pounds of concentrate. This violation is a class four felony, punishable with between two to six years imprisonment, a fine between $2,000 and $500,000, or both. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-18-406(6)(b)(B).)

More than 100 pounds or marijuana or concentrate; subsequent convictions. These violations are class three felonies. Punishment may include between four and 12 years imprisonment, a fine between $3,000 and $750,000, or both. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-18-406(6)(b)(C)&(D).)

Marijuana Sale and Distribution

Although Colorado marijuana laws permit adults to possess marijuana up to a certain amount, the sale, delivery, or distribution of marijuana is a crime in Colorado (except for medicinal purposes). This law will change once Amendment 64 is codified into law. Currently, Colorado imposes a range of penalties, according to the amount and the people involved.

Less than two ounces without payment. A person who gives less than two ounces to another person, without consideration (payment), commits a class 2 petty offense. Treated as mere possession, the penalty is a $100 fine . (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-18-406(5).)

Selling between two ounces and five pounds (or less than one pound of concentrate) to someone between the ages of 15 and 18. A person older than 18 who sells between two ounces and five pounds of marijuana (or less than one pound of concentrate) to someone between the ages of 15 and 18, is guilty of a class four felony. Penalties include between two and six years in prison, a fine of between $2,000 and $500,000, or both. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-18-406(7)(a).)

Selling more than five pounds (or one pound of concentrate) to a person between 15 and 18. Selling more than five pounds of marijuana (or more than one pound of concentrate) to a person between ages 15 and 18 is a class three felony. Penalties include between two and six years in prison, a fine of between $2,000 and $500,000, or both. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-18-406(7)(b).)

Selling or providing any amount of marijuana or concentrate to person younger than 15 years old. A person older than 18 who provides or sells any amount of marijuana (or concentrate) to a minor younger than 15 is guilty of a class 3 felony. This offense carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of four years, which can be extended to 12 years by the sentencing judge. The judge may additionally order a fine of between $3,000 and $750,000. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-18-406(7)(c).)

Subsequent convictions. After a first conviction, any subsequent conviction for sale or distribution is a class three felony. These offenses carry a mandatory minimum prison sentence of four years, which can be extended to 12 years by the sentencing judge. The judge may additionally order a fine of between $3,000 and $750,000. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-18-406(7) d).)

Marijuana Cultivation, Processing, or Manufacture

It is a crime in Colorado to cultivate or produce more than six marijuana plants for personal use, or for a person to knowingly allow plants to be grown on a property that the person controls. Penalties vary according to the number of plants grown.

Six plants or fewer. Under Amendment 64, if you are older than 21, you may cultivate up to six plants for private personal use. A person who cultivates six or fewer marijuana plants (or knowingly allows such plants to be cultivated on that person’s land) for purposes other than private personal use is guilty of a class one misdemeanor. Penalties include between six and 18 months in jail, a fine between $500 and $5,000, or both. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-18-406(7.5)(a).)

Between seven and 29 plants. This violation is a class five felony. Penalties include between one and three years in prison, a fine between $1,000 and $100,000, or both. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-18-406(7.5)(b).)

30 or more plants; processing or manufacture. Growing more than 30 plants, or conducting marijuana or marijuana concentrate processing operations (or knowingly allowing these activities to occur on one’s land) is a class four felony. Penalties include between two and six years in prison, a fine between $2,000 and $500,000, or both. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-18-406(6).)

Second processing or manufacturing offenses. A second offense is a class three felony, which carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of four years. The judge may order the prison sentence extended for up to 12 years, and impose a fine of between $3,000 and $750,000. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-18-406(6).)

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

A person who possesses drug paraphernalia may be convicted of a class two petty offense if that person knows (or reasonably should know) that the paraphernalia could be used in violation of Colorado’s drug use laws. This does not apply to adults who use paraphernalia to legally cultivate up to six plants or to use one ounce or less of marijuana for private personal use.

Penalties include a fine of up to $100. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-18-428.)

To learn more drug laws in Colorado, please see, Possession of a Controlled Substance in Colorado.

Marijuana Possession and Use in a Detention Facility

Anyone who is confined to a detention facility (for example, a county jail or state prison), who possesses up to eight ounces of marijuana is guilty of a class six felony. Punishment includes one to two years in prison, a fine between $1,000 and $100,000, or both. For second and subsequent violations, where both the initial and subsequent violations involved more than one ounce of marijuana, the offender is guilty of a class five felony. This conviction may carry between one and three years in prison, a fine between $1,000 and $100,000, or both. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-18-406.5.)

Special Offenders

Under certain circumstances, a person who violates one of Colorado’s marijuana laws will be classified as a special offender for sentencing purposes. This happens when, in addition to the marijuana violation, other aggravating circumstances existed that make the crime worse, and lead the sentencing judge to believe that a harsher penalty is appropriate. Aggravating circumstances may include multiple previous convictions, committing the marijuana crime as part of a bigger criminal conspiracy, distributing other drugs in addition to marijuana, or using a firearm as part of the crime. These are just some examples of what a sentencing judge might consider to be aggravating circumstances; judges can consider many more circumstances than listed here. (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-18-407.)

The judge will sentence special offenders to at least the penalties incurred under a class two felony, and up to twice these penalties. This may include over eight years in prison.

Additional Information

Follow the links below to get even more information concerning marijuana laws in Colorado. 

The Value of Local Legal Representation

If you have been charged with a marijuana-related offense, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. While the penalties and consequences of a marijuana charge are governed by statutory law, only a local defense attorney knows how the courts handle such cases in your area.

by: , Contributing Author

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