Colorado Marijuana Laws

Learn about Colorado’s laws for marijuana use, sale, and cultivation, including permissible uses.

By , Attorney

Colorado marijuana possession, sale, and cultivation laws can be complicated. While Colorado legalized marijuana for certain recreational use by adults 21 and older, state laws still highly regulate marijuana as a controlled substance. Understand what's legal and what's not in the Centennial State.

Is Weed Legal in Colorado?

In some cases. Colorado law permits certain recreational use and personal cultivation of marijuana, subject to the restrictions discussed below. Only licensed retailers are permitted to sell marijuana.

Permitted Possession and Consumption of Marijuana in Colorado

An adult age 21 or older (including out-of-state visitors) may legally possess up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use on private property. The law prohibits "open and public display, consumption, or use" of any amount of weed, meaning it's illegal to smoke:

  • in public places, such as parks, trails, playgrounds, and public sidewalks
  • on school property
  • in most business places, such as restaurants, bars, offices, concert venues, and ski resorts
  • in common areas shared in apartments and condos, and
  • on federal property, including national parks or forests.

Landlords and businesses can also restrict the use of marijuana on their property. Local governments might also have additional regulations.

Permitted Gifting and Cultivation of Marijuana

Colorado law also permits individuals of legal age to:

  • give one ounce or less of marijuana to someone of legal age without payment, and
  • grow up to 6 marijuana plants (only 3 flowering) per person or 12 marijuana plants per residence, as long as the plants are grown in a private, locked enclosure not viewable to the public nor accessible to underage persons.

(Colo. Const. art. XVIII, § 16 (2022); Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-18-406, 44-10-702 (2022).)

Colorado Marijuana Laws: Possession Offenses

Marijuana possession offenses generally fall under one of the following categories: underage offenses, open-and-public display offenses, or possession of prohibited amounts.

Underage Offenses for Marijuana Possession in Colorado

It's unlawful for anyone younger than 21 to possess marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia. Possessing two ounces or less is an unclassified petty offense. Penalties depend on whether the offense is a first or repeat offense and may include fines up to $100 or $250, plus court-ordered substance abuse counseling and community service hours.

Open-and-Public Display Offenses in Colorado

Any 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.

Possession of Prohibited Amounts of Marijuana in Colorado

The following penalties apply for possession of prohibited amounts of marijuana.

  • Possession of more than 2 ounces but no more than 6 ounces, or not more than 3 ounces of marijuana concentrate (hashish) is a level 2 drug misdemeanor, punishable by a fine between $50 and $750, up to 364 days in jail, or both.
  • Possession of more than 6 ounces of marijuana or more than 3 ounces of marijuana concentrate is a level 1 drug misdemeanor, punishable by 6 to 18 months in jail, a fine of between $500 and $5,000, or both.

(Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-1.3-501, 18-13-122, 18-18-406 (2022).)

Colorado Marijuana Laws: Sale and Distribution Offenses

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.

Marijuana Sale Offenses

Below are the penalties for sale and distribution offenses when the recipient is an adult. Stiffer penalties (outlined in the next section) apply when a recipient is a minor.

  • Giving no more than 2 ounces of marijuana without payment is a petty drug offense. Treated as mere possession, the potential penalty is a $100 fine.
  • Selling no more than 4 ounces of marijuana, or no more than 2 ounces of marijuana concentrate (hashish) is a level 1 drug misdemeanor, punishable by between 6 and 18 months in jail, a fine of between $500 and $5,000, or both.
  • Selling more than 4 ounces but no more than 12 ounces of marijuana, or more than 2 ounces but no more than 6 ounces of marijuana concentrate is a level 4 drug felony, punishable by between 6 and 12 months in prison, a fine of between $1,000 and $100,000, or both.
  • Selling more than 12 ounces but no more than 5 pounds of marijuana, or more than 6 ounces but no more than 2 1/2 pounds of concentrate is a level 3 drug felony, punishable by between 2 and 4 years in prison, a fine of between $2,000 and $500,000, or both.
  • Selling more than 5 pounds but no more than 50 pounds of marijuana, or more than 2 1/2 pounds but no more than 25 pounds of concentrate is a level 2 drug felony, punishable by between 4 and 8 years in prison, a fine of between $3,000 and $750,000, or both.
  • Selling more than 50 pounds of marijuana or more than 25 pounds of concentrate is a level 1 drug felony, punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 8 years (and as many as 32 years) in prison. The court may impose a fine in addition to imprisonment.

Marijuana Sale Offenses Involving Minors

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 1 ounce of marijuana or no more than 1/2 ounce of concentrate, the offense is a level 4 drug felony. A conviction can result in between 6 to 12 months in prison, a fine of between $1,000 and $100,000, or both.
  • If the transfer involves more than 1 ounce but no more than 6 ounces of marijuana, or more than 1/2 ounce but no more than 3 ounces of concentrate, the offense is a level 3 drug felony. A conviction can result in between 2 and 4 years in prison, a fine of between $2,000 and $500,000, or both.
  • If the transfer involves more than 6 ounces but no more than 2 1/2 pounds of marijuana, or more than 3 ounces but no more than 1 pound of concentrate, the offense is a level 2 drug felony. A conviction can result in between 4 and 8 years in prison, a fine of between $3,000 and $750,000, or both.
  • If the transfer involves more than 2 1/2 pounds of marijuana or more than 1 pound of concentrate, the offense is a level 1 drug felony. A conviction will result in a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 8 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, -501; 18-18-406 (2022).)

Colorado Marijuana Laws: Cultivation Offenses

It is a crime in Colorado to cultivate or produce more than 6 plants per person or 12 marijuana plants per residence. Plants can only be cultivated in enclosed, locked spaces that are not viewable to the public or accessible by minors. That means you can't plant marijuana in an outdoor garden, even if the space is surrounded by a fence. You also can't plant marijuana indoors if someone can, say, peer into the windows and see the plants.

Penalties for violating these home-grow laws vary according to the number of plants involved and where they were grown.

Cultivating more than 12 plants in an enclosed space. Potential penalties for this violation vary depending on the number of plants involved and whether the person is a first-time offender, as follows:

  • It's a level 1 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.
  • It's a level 1 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 6 and 18 months in jail, a fine of between $500 and $5,000, or both.
  • It's a level 3 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.

Open cultivation of marijuana plants. Growing any amount of marijuana, or allowing another person to grow marijuana, openly, is a crime under Colorado law. Potential penalties depend on the number of plants involved, as follows:

  • Cultivating 6 or fewer plants is a level 1 drug misdemeanor, punishable by between 6 and 18 months in jail, a fine of between $500 and $5,000, or both.
  • Cultivating 7 to 30 plants is a level 4 drug felony, punishable by between 6 and 12 months in prison, a fine of between $1,000 and $100,000, or both.
  • Cultivating more than 30 plants is a level 3 drug felony, punishable by between 2 and 4 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 (2022).)

What Are Defenses to Marijuana Charges?

Prosecutors must prove all the elements of a marijuana charge beyond a reasonable doubt to get a conviction. Poking holes in the prosecution's case is a common defense strategy. When dealing with marijuana charges, a defendant might argue:

  • the marijuana belonged to someone else
  • the defendant did not knowingly possess or have control over the drugs
  • the amount of the drugs was incorrectly measured, or
  • the defendant consumed the marijuana in a private (not public) place.

A defense attorney might also try to get evidence of the drugs tossed out based on an illegal search and seizure or try to reduce charges by challenging the drug measurements.

Get Legal Help

If you have been charged with a marijuana-related offense, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. 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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