The legalisation of recreational cannabis in 2012 made Colorado one of the most famous weed-friendly destinations in the world. Penalties still apply where cannabis possession, cultivation and distribution laws are broken, but the state nonetheless has one of the most relaxed overall cannabis policies in the U.S.
In just a few short years, Colorado has become one of the most iconic places for both national and international cannabis culture. One of several North American states to legalise both recreational and medical cannabis, Colorado has a thriving industry and a booming cannabis tourism scene. Colorado is known for not simply legalising cannabis, but for celebrating and promoting the wide-reaching benefits of liberal cannabis policy.
The use of medical cannabis in the state of Colorado was officially approved in November 2000, when Amendment 20 squeaked by with a majority of 54%. The new law enabled residents with an approved medical cannabis card to cultivate up to six plants at home, or to purchase and carry a maximum of 2oz of cannabis flowers. Allowances can be made by doctors on a case by case basis, should a patient need to grow or purchase larger quantities of medical cannabis.
A little further down the line in 2012, the enactment of Colorado Amendment 64 brought into force new cannabis policy for recreational pot. Specifically, the legalization of the use, consumption, cultivation, and sale of cannabis state-wide (with restrictions). The law clearly states that adults aged at least 21 years or over are now permitted to purchase and possess cannabis in specific amounts, or to grow moderate quantities of cannabis at home. For tourists, the exact same laws apply - anyone within the territory of Colorado is granted legal permission to purchase and consume cannabis, irrespective of their place of origin.
How Much Cannabis Can I buy or Grow in Colorado?
Personal purchase and possession restrictions in Colorado are pretty much the same as those of neighbouring pro-pot states. As it stands, sales and purchases are restricted to a maximum of 1oz of cannabis flower per person per visit to a cannabis store. Alternatively, buyers are able to purchase a maximum of 8g of cannabis concentrates, or up to 800mg in the form of cannabis edibles. However, general possession restrictions aren’t quite as severe - it’s permitted to carry up to 28g of concentrates on your person at any one time.
In terms of cultivation, Colorado now permits individuals within its territory to grow a maximum of six cannabis plants on their own private property. There are no limitations to how much cannabis can be legally harvested and retained, though no more than three of these plants must be flowering at any one time. Cultivation is also permitted on a per-household basis - not per-occupant. If six people share the same home, they are restricted to the same six cannabis plants.
How Can I Buy if I’m Not a Colorado Resident?
Cannabis stores and dispensaries are required by law to heavily scrutinize customers’ ID. If you’re heading to Colorado from elsewhere, you’ll need to ensure you bring a valid and easily recognizable form of ID along for the ride. Stores have their own policies as to which forms of ID are considered suitable - passports and driving licenses being the most widely accepted documents.
As is the case across most of the US in general, almost all cannabis stores in Colorado operate strictly on a cash-only basis.
How Late Do Cannabis Stores Stay Open in Colorado?
There are restrictions on opening times, but none of any real gravity. Officially, state law enables cannabis stores to open at 8am and remain open until midnight. Nevertheless, some towns and cities have established and implemented their own localized policies. One of which being Denver, where stores are required to close no later than 12pm. Always check online before heading out, in order to avoid disappointment.
What Are the Rules on Consumption in Colorado?
Walking into a store in Colorado and walking out with a huge bag of quality cannabis is easy. However, working out exactly where you can smoke the stuff isn’t quite as simple. In fact, it’s a highly debated topic with plenty of room for interpretation.
Above all else, the rule of thumb to follow at all times is that of maximum discretion. Even where it isn’t required by law, it’s still appreciated. Across the board, consuming cannabis “openly and publicly” is forbidden under the terms of Amendment 64. As a rule of thumb, you cannot consume cannabis in any form in any shared public space of any kind.
You also won’t find any cannabis bars of coffee shops like those of Amsterdam, which allow patrons to consume cannabis on their premises. Nevertheless, Initiative 300 has opened the door to the creation of a new wave of private cannabis lounges, which operate on a bring-your-own-pot basis. Any cannabis clubs you have to sign up to as members (or invitation-only affairs) also qualify as private property.
Outdoors, it’s illegal to consume cannabis in parks, green spaces, nature reserves and anywhere else. Casual cannabis use out and about in Colorado is rife, but you could find yourself lumped with an on-the-spot fine.
How About Driving Under the Influence in Colorado?
After much debate, a new DUI law came into effect in Colorado, which sets the legal blood THC maximum for drivers at 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood. Unfortunately, it’s perfectly possible for an individual to test positive for this kind of THC level several days after last consuming cannabis. The new law prompted fierce scrutiny among cannabis advocates, who argued that it could easily result in a DUI where the person concerned was in no way intoxicated.
Nevertheless, advocates of the law insist it exists for a reason. What’s more, they also argue that you’re highly unlikely to be subjected to such a test, unless it is pretty obvious you’ve been consuming cannabis relatively recently. In any case, getting behind the wheel or a car with even trace amounts of THC in your system is never a good idea. Erring on the side of caution being a sensible course of action.
What Does the Law Say About Transporting Marijuana in Colorado?
If you plan on heading out to buy cannabis, you’re going to need to transport it to its final destination. In Colorado, the state as a whole uses the same “open container” rule as that which applies to alcohol. Specifically, cannabis can only be transported in a vehicle if it is in a sealed and unbroken container. If the cannabis container (or bag) you use has been opened, it technically violates state law. Even if it has been re-sealed once again, it will be viewed in the same way as an open alcohol container in the vehicle. As a rule of thumb, all sealed cannabis containers should be transported in the trunk of the vehicle, or well out of reach of the driver.
How About Passengers of the Vehicle?
It’s also worth bearing in mind that it is illegal for any other occupants of the vehicle (not just the driver) to consume cannabis. Under no circumstances should anyone consume cannabis of any kind in a vehicle, irrespective of whether or not it is in motion at the time.
Can I Take Cannabis Outside the State of Colorado?
This is one area of cannabis policy where Colorado remains relatively strict. The Federal government is keeping a very close eye on Colorado, leading to a widespread crackdown in the illegal export of cannabis. Whether planning to take a few grams or a couple of kilos over state lines, the advice remains the same - don’t do it! Not only can you expect pretty intensive checks around the border, but you could also be liable for heavy penalties if busted.
What Laws Apply on Federal Land and Properties in Colorado?
As already touched upon, any and all Federal Land and properties across Colorado strictly forbid the possession and consumption of cannabis. This means when visiting national forests, national parks, monuments, courthouses, and even some ski areas, you are 100% forbidden from even carrying cannabis on your person.
Recent statistics show that around 150 people receive citations for cannabis possession on federal land each year in Colorado. As a first offence, you could be looking at a fine of up to $1000 and a year in jail. Any further offences are punishable by a mandatory 15-day minimum jail term, which can be extended to up to three years with a fine of up to $5000. If unsure, don’t take the risk - it could prove more costly than you’d think.