Colorado Marijuana Laws

Learn about Colorado’s laws and penalties for marijuana use, sale, cultivation, and distribution.

Marijuana possession, sale, and distribution is regulated by both state and federal law. In Colorado, marijuana is regulated as a controlled substance. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-18-102 (2019).) But as of 2012, Amendment 64 made it legal under state law for adults (people 21 years old or older) to possess and cultivate certain 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.

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.

Possession of more than one ounce but no more than two ounces. Possession of more than one ounce but no more than two ounces is a petty drug offense. If convicted, a violator may face a fine of up to $100. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-18-406(5)(a)(I) (2019).)

Public display or use of two ounces or less. A person who openly and publicly displays, consumes, or uses two ounces of marijuana or less may be convicted of a petty drug offense. Penalties include a fine of as much as $100 and up to 24 hours of community service. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-18-406(5)(b)(I) (2019).)

Possession of more than two ounces but no more than six ounces. Possession of between two and six ounces is a level two drug misdemeanor, punishable by a fine between $50 and $750, up to 364 days in jail, or both. (Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-1.3-501, 18-18-406(4)(c) (2019).)

Possession of more than six ounces but no more than 12 ounces of marijuana, or possession of no more than three ounces of marijuana concentrate (such as hashish). This violation is a level one drug misdemeanor, and a conviction is punishable by between six and 18 months in jail, a fine of between $500 and $5,000, or both. (Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-1.3-501, 18-18-406(4)(b) (2019).)

Possession of more than 12 ounces of marijuana, or possession of more than three ounces of concentrate. This violation is a level four drug felony, and a conviction is punishable by between six months and one year in jail, a fine of between $1,000 and $100,000, or both. (Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-1.3-401.5, 18-18-406(4)(a) (2019).)

Colorado’s Marijuana Sale and Distribution Laws

Although Colorado marijuana laws permit adults to possess a certain amount of marijuana, the sale, delivery, or distribution of marijuana is a crime in Colorado. Colorado imposes a range of penalties, according to the amount and the people involved.

Giving no more than two ounces without payment. A person who gives no more than two ounces to another person, without payment, commits a petty drug offense. Treated as mere possession, the potential penalty is a $100 fine. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-18-406(5)(c) (2019).)

Selling no more than four ounces of marijuana, or no more than two ounces of marijuana concentrate. The offense is a level one drug misdemeanor, punishable by between six and 18 months in jail, a fine of between $500 and $5,000, or both. (Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-1.3-501, 18-18-406(2)(b)(III)(E) (2019).)

Selling more than four ounces but no more than 12 ounces of marijuana, or more than two ounces but no more than six ounces of concentrate. The offense is a level four drug felony, punishable by between six months and one year in jail, a fine of between $1,000 and $100,000, or both. (Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-1.3-401.5, 18-18-406(2)(b)(III)(D) (2019).)

Selling more than 12 ounces but no more than five pounds of marijuana, or more than six ounces but no more than two and one-half pounds of concentrate. The offense is a level three drug felony, punishable by between two and four years in prison, a fine of between $2,000 and $500,000, or both. (Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-1.3-401.5, 18-18-406(2)(b)(III)(C) (2019).)

Selling more than five pounds but no more than 50 pounds of marijuana, or more than two and one-half pounds but no more than 25 pounds of concentrate. The offense is a level two drug felony, punishable by between four and eight years in prison, a fine of between $3,000 and $750,000, or both. (Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-1.3-401.5, 18-18-406(2)(b)(III)(B) (2019).)

Selling more than 50 pounds of marijuana or more than 25 pounds of concentrate. The offense is a level one drug felony, punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of at least eight years (and as many as 32 years) in prison. The court may impose a fine in addition to imprisonment. (Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-1.3-401.5, 18-18-406(2)(b)(III)(A) (2019).)

Selling, transferring, or dispensing marijuana to a minor. Colorado law prescribes harsher penalties for adults who sell, transfer, or dispense marijuana to a minor who is at least two years younger than the seller. The penalties vary depending on the amount of marijuana or marijuana concentrate sold, as follows:

  • If the transfer involves no more than one ounce of marijuana or no more than one-half ounce of concentrate, the offense is a level four drug felony. A conviction can result in between six months and one year in jail, a fine of between $1,000 and $100,000, or both.
  • If the transfer involves more than one ounce but no more than six ounces of marijuana, or more than one-half ounce but no more than three ounces of concentrate, the offense is a level three drug felony. A conviction can result in between two and four years in prison, a fine of between $2,000 and $500,000, or both.
  • If the transfer involves more than six ounces but no more than two and one-half pounds of marijuana, or more than three ounces but no more than one pound of concentrate, the offense is a level two drug felony. A conviction can result in between four and eight years in prison, a fine of between $3,000 and $750,000, or both.
  • If the transfer involves more than two and one-half pounds of marijuana, or more than one pound of concentrate, the offense is a level one drug felony. A conviction will result in a mandatory minimum sentence of at least eight years (and as many as 32 years) in prison. The court may impose a fine in addition to imprisonment.

(Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-1.3-401.5, 18-18-406(1) (2019).)

Colorado’s Marijuana Cultivation, Processing, or Manufacturing Laws

It is a crime in Colorado to cultivate or produce more than 12 marijuana plants per residence, 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 involved.

Twelve plants or fewer for personal use. If you are 21 years old or older, you may cultivate up to 12 plants for private personal use per residence. Plants must be grown in an enclosed, locked space that can’t be publicly viewed. That means you can’t plant marijuana in an outdoor garden, even if the space is surrounded by a fence. (Read more about Colorado’s marijuana cultivation requirements and restrictions.)

Cultivating more than 12 plants. The cultivation of more than 12 marijuana plants is a crime under Colorado law. Potential penalties vary depending on the number of plants involved and whether the person is a first-time offender, as follows:

  • The crime is a level one petty drug offense if more than 12 plants are involved and it is the defendant’s first offense. The penalty is a fine of up to $1,000.
  • The crime is a level one drug misdemeanor for a second or subsequent offense if more than 12 but no more than 24 plants are involved. A conviction can result in between six and 18 months in jail, a fine of between $500 and $5,000, or both.
  • The crime is a level three drug felony for a second or subsequent offense if more than 24 plants are involved. A conviction can result in between two and four years in prison, a fine of between $2,000 and $500,000, or both.

(Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-1.3-401.5, 18-1.3-501, 18-18-406(3) (2019).)

Cultivating marijuana, or knowingly allowing another person to cultivate marijuana, on land that you own, occupy, or control. Growing marijuana, or allowing another person to grow marijuana, on your land, is a crime under Colorado law. Potential penalties depend on the number of plants involved, as follows:

  • Cultivating six or fewer plants is a level one drug misdemeanor, punishable by between six and 18 months in jail, a fine of between $500 and $5,000, or both.
  • Cultivating more than six but no more than 30 plants is a level four drug felony, punishable by between six months and one year in jail, a fine of between $1,000 and $100,000, or both.
  • Cultivating more than 30 plants is a level three drug felony, punishable by between two and four years in prison, a fine of between $2,000 and $500,000, or both.

(Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-1.3-401.5, 18-1.3-501, 18-18-406(3) (2019).)

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia in Colorado

A person who possesses drug paraphernalia may be convicted of a petty drug 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 12 plants or to use one ounce or less of marijuana for private personal use. Penalties include a fine of up to $100. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-18-428 (2019).)

To learn more about Colorado’s drug laws, see Possession of a Controlled Substance in Colorado.

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. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-18-407 (2019).)

The judge will sentence special offenders to at least the penalties incurred under a level one drug felony. This can include more than eight years in prison.

Get Legal Help

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, the law is complicated and it can change at any time. Only a local criminal defense attorney can tell you how cases like yours tend to be handled by prosecutors and judges in your courthouse.

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