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Frequently Asked Questions About Marijuana in Colorado

Colorado, where the Rocky Mountains loom over colorful valleys, thick forests, babbling brooks, and an innovative urban metropolis, first welcomed medical marijuana and then, over a decade later, became the first state in the nation to launch a legal recreational marijuana market. This bold move from the Centennial State has played a monumental role in shifting American perceptions of legal marijuana.

Is marijuana legal in Colorado?

Colorado has both medical and recreational marijuana laws within the state constitution. Marijuana possession and use is legal with a few important caveats regarding possession limits, underage distribution, trafficking, public use, and at-home cultivation.

When did marijuana become legal in Colorado?

In November 2000, Colorado voters narrowly passed Initiative 20, allowing medical marijuana within the state. Implemented early in 2001, the measure didn't receive widespread attention until the late 2000s, when clarifications from the Colorado Attorney General led to dispensaries rapidly popping up around the state. Colorado voters approved recreational marijuana in November 2012, with recreational shops beginning sales a little over one year afterward, on January 1st, 2014.

Where are dispensaries located in Colorado?

Medical dispensaries are able to operate in 67 municipalities across the state, presiding over a total of 1,569 licensed cultivators, manufacturers, testing facilities, and retail centers. Recreational dispensaries can operate in only 64 municipalities across the state - with Colorado Springs being the second largest population in the state with a ban on recreational licensure. In total, the State has 1,353 licensed recreational cultivators, manufacturers, testing facilities, and sales outlets.

Are the dispensaries medical, recreational, or both?

Currently, more county and municipal governments allow medical sales than recreational sales. Colorado Springs, for instance, has plenty of medical dispensaries, yet you'll have to travel out of the city for recreational, sometimes as far as an hour away. There is no law forbidding a dispensary location from holding dual licensure, so many dispensaries do both. However, many dispensaries also specialize, carrying only medical or recreational.

Who can buy medically in Colorado? What about recreationally?

To be a medical patient in Colorado, you need to have a state-issued ID, proving residency. The program is not restricted to age, though parents must give full consent for children under 18 years of age to receive treatment. In addition to being a resident, adults age 18 and older must receive a recommendation from a licensed doctor. Currently, Colorado's patients are recommended to the medical program for the following debilitating illness: Recreational customers, on the other hand, need only be age 21 or older and possess a valid ID.

How do I become a medical patient in Colorado?

There are various clinics around the state where you may see a doctor in order to receive a valid medical marijuana recommendation. You are required to pay for the visit out of pocket, with a cost between $50 and $100. After providing evidence of a qualifying illness or condition, the physician certification must be submitted to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) via mail or online for review. If accepted, the CDPHE will alert you by email or post. You can print the card from your home or have it mailed there.

Where can I smoke?

Open or public use is generally prohibited under state law. However, vagueness in legal terminology has provided some flexibility in an evolving industry, and a handful of lounges and marijuana social clubs currently exist across the state. The most common and acceptable place to use cannabis is in the privacy of your own home. If you are a tourist or have a restrictive landlord though, the home is also off limits. Hotels, bed & breakfasts, and your friends' houses are possible options. Passed in November 2016, Ordinance 300 in Denver County is a pilot program for social cannabis use within the city. Beginning in 2017, businesses can apply for neighborhood-approved permits to allow consumption on site.

How do I get a job in the Colorado marijuana industry?

If it's work in the up-and-coming marijuana industry you seek, the biggest barrier to entry is getting your badge. The Marijuana Enforcement Division, Colorado's marijuana licensing authority, requires all industry workers to submit an application. The state uses the fees to do a thorough background check. Once approved, you will receive a badge with your photo, giving you the opportunity to work with any dispensary or marijuana production facility. Check out our cannabis job board for positions and openings across the country!

Is Drug testing for marijuana legal in Colorado?

It is still legal for an employer or court to order a THC test in the state, though the practice is somewhat contested. Until Congress changes the prohibitive laws around marijuana on the federal level, marijuana will likely continue to play a role in drug testing policies in the workplace and legal system. The Colorado Court of Appeals, in a 2013 ruling, has set the precedent stating while marijuana may be legal in Colorado, the industry functions under federal law. As marijuana remains a Schedule I drug, the use of marijuana off the job cannot be protected by worker's rights.

Is Marijuana Delivery legal in Colorado?

For recreational consumers, marijuana delivery services are out of reach. If you are a medical patient, your direct caregiver has the ability to deliver marijuana and marijuana products directly to you. This is commonly reserved for immobile patients and those in underserved communities but can be utilized by any valid medical patient with a designated caregiver.

How can I pay for marijuana at a dispensary?

Since cannabis is still federally illegal, banks are in a precarious position. Any funds received for federally illegal activities could put the bank at risk. In addition, federal funds cannot be used to lend to marijuana businesses or recover funds in the event of fraud or theft. This affects dispensaries' ability to accept credit or debit cards. Some do allow you to use your debit card on purchases as long the card is run as an ATM withdrawal. As a result, the billion-dollar industry functions predominantly as a cash economy.

Featured Cannabis Business of the Month
- LivWell Dispensary -

Colorado Marijuana Laws

Being the first recreational market in US history has elevated Colorado to a place of wide public attention. At the nexus of curiosity and scrutiny, Colorado set out to make laws and regulations fair and easy to understand. Recreational and medical marijuana regulations and penalties overlap on several legal & public health points, yet there are a few places the two systems are notably different.

The Colorado Medical Use of Marijuana Initiative

A total of 1.7 million voters cast their ballot on the initiative, passing medical marijuana in the state by a narrow majority. On June 1st, 2001, seven months after voters passed Initiative 20, the state was required to have a system for patients and caregivers to apply and be issued a valid medical card. As of January 2018, there are ten (10) medical conditions for which medical marijuana may be used as treatment. At first, Colorado's medical industry grew quickly in both sales and number of registered patients, but since recreational legalization the numbers have slowly declined. The number of valid ID cards reached a high of over 115,000 in 2014 and has since declined to around 90,000. If the patient is under 18, the state requires well-documented parental consent.

Purchase and possession limits under Initiative 20

Under initiative 20, patients or their designated guardians are eligible to purchase up to two ounces (56 grams) of marijuana per transaction. Similarly, two ounces is the public possession limit for medical patients. Unlike recreational marijuana consumers, there is no equivalence defined between edibles, concentrates, and cannabis flower.

Growing at home under Initiative 20

Patients can enjoy the luxury of growing up to six plants at home, with no more than three plants maturing at a time. A patient's doctor can file for an extended plant count with the state, increasing the plant count from six up to 99, as medically necessary. See the full initiative text here.

The Colorado marijuana legalization amendment

In late 2012, Colorado voters backed another cannabis-friendly ballot initiative - Amendment 64. Taking 55% of the vote, the amendment's narrow passage was the catalyst for an entirely different approach to cannabis within the state, mirroring the adult use of alcohol. Under the amendment, adults age 21 and over may purchase, consume, share, and even grow their own marijuana. There are limits of course. Recreational marijuana consumers are allowed to legally purchase up to an ounce (28 grams) of freshly grown cannabis flower. Unlike medical marijuana patients, the state has defined product equivalencies for different forms of recreational cannabis. Recreational marijuana customers may purchase as much as eight (8) grams of marijuana concentrates or as much as 800 mg of marijuana-infused edibles per purchase in place of flower.

At-home cultivation under Amendment 64

Each resident age 21 and up is allowed to grow up to six plants. Just like medical, an individual must not have more than three mature, or flowering, plants at any one time. In 2017, the state enacted a maximum number of 12 plants per household. Any marijuana yielded from the plants in excess of the possession limits defined above is to remain locked and secured, not in your possession or outside the home.

Marijuana use and driving

Patients and retail customers are not allowed to pilot any type of vehicle while under the influence of marijuana (this includes bicycles). Driving while under the influence is a criminal offense with possible jail time. As a patient or recreational customer, you can freely transport marijuana for personal use around the state along with you, as long as you are at or under the possession limits. However, if you happen to cross a state line, the full brunt of trafficking penalties come into effect. Interstate transport remains explicitly illegal.

Marijuana use by minors

Colorado prioritizes children as the population segment to shield from the industry. Dispensaries cannot be located within 1,000ft of schools and must be zoned commercially. Underage sales are met with strict fines and carry felony drug charges. Dispensaries who are caught are subject to hefty fines and license revocation. Anyone under 21, unless they have a valid medical card, is considered underage, and it is against the law to provide them with marijuana.

Places to smoke marijuana in Colorado

Amendment 64 forbids cannabis consumption "openly nor publicly." In general, consumption cannot be done in a way that would endanger others, echoing Colorado's medical marijuana industry. Public landmarks, concert venues, bars, restaurants, alleys, hotel lobbies, and schools all can be defined as public or open. Colorado law also bans smoking indoors in most cases. In cities, states, and national parks, as well as ski slopes, hiking trails, and most campgrounds in the state, marijuana consumption is likely prohibited. There are, however, several smoker's clubs and even a church which currently allow cannabis consumption on-site.

Additionally, as of March 2018, Denver opened it's first social club for cannabis after it passed legislation allowing the licensure social spaces to consume marijuana under the 2016 voter-backed Ordinance 300.

Penalties and fines

Colorado still carries various fines and penalties for marijuana related crimes. Here's what you can expect:
  • $100 fine for public or open consumption
  • $100 fine for possession above the defined limits
  • Up to a $700 fine, 12 months in jail for public possession of between two and six ounces of marijuana
  • Up to a $100,000 fine, two years in prison for growing more than six plants (rec) unless the patient has a valid extended plant count
While uncommon, law enforcement can fine you for paraphernalia.

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Colorado Marijuana Prices and Economic Data

The marijuana industry in Colorado is - economically speaking - flourishing! The rapidly-growing market is now a billion dollar industry. Prices widely vary from dispensary to dispensary and from year to year. Price fluctuations rippled across the industry in 2016, as a result of dispensaries competing with both the black market and other dispensaries. As street dealers close shop and market saturation stiffens competition, price drops, specials, deals, and coupons are becoming the backbone of revenue generation.

Average Price of Marijuana in Colorado

Prices vary based on branding, geography, and form of cannabis. For the most part, the price difference between recreational and medical prices on flower and concentrates (ignoring the different tax rates) are negligible. Let's start with the basics:


  • 1 gram: $5 - $15
  • 1/8 oz: $20-$40
  • 1/4 oz: $50-$70
  • 1/2 oz: $70 - $120
  • 1 oz: $125 - $225
If you are seeking out premium flower, top shelf prices can reach upwards of $300/oz.


Concentrates are one of the fastest growing segments of the Colorado marijuana industry. Here is what you can expect to pay:
  • 1 gram kief: $10-$20
  • 1 gram wax/shatter: $25-$45
  • 1 gram live resin: $45-$80
Concentrates can also come as cartridges for vaporizer pens, and range in price based on volume in milligrams.


On the recreational side, a ten dose 100mg edible is commonly $20-$30, with individual 10 mg doses available for $5-$10. Medical patients are not bound by the 10 mg limit per dose, so many products are much more potent while maintaining similar price range.

Purchase limits on Marijuana

Medical limits have remained consistent at a two-ounce purchase limit for most patients. A result of evolving regulations, marijuana concentrates and edibles on the recreational side have purchase limits based on equivalence rather than weight. Recreational customers are limited to the following:
  • Up to one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana flower or equivalent
  • Up to 8 grams of marijuana concentrate (equiv. to one ounce)
  • Up to 800 mg of edible products (equiv. to one ounce)
There is no distinction made between concentrate and edible equivalency on the medical side.

Employment Impact

Home to nearly 1,000 medical and recreational dispensaries, 1,413 licensed cultivation centers, 495 infused product manufacturers, and 27 marijuana testing centers, Colorado's marijuana industry has added 18,000 full time positions to the state economy, elevating the total economic value to $2.4 billion in 2016.


Every recreational sale or transfer of marijuana from a cultivator to manufacturer, cultivator to retailer, or manufacturer to retailer is levied a 15% excise tax. On the retail end, where the buds flow from the store to your fingertips, a special 10% sales tax, a 2.9% state sales tax, and any additional local taxes are added to the purchase. The recreational tax rate looms over the basic 2.9% sales tax paid by medical patients, demonstrating another cost-savings benefit to the state medical program.

In 2016, Colorado raked in over $1.3 billion in combined medical and recreational sales. Nearly $200 million were collected in taxes from sales, giving public schools upgrades through the B.E.S.T. grant program as well as providing fiscal support to a variety of public health and law enforcement programs.

Of the $199 million collected in taxes in 2016, the first $40 million in excise tax is earmarked for public schools. The special sales tax deposits 85% of the taxes collected into state accounts that fund public health and law enforcement programs, with the other 15% going to local governments for administration of the marijuana industry. In 2016, public health & human services received a combined boost of over $30 million in marijuana tax revenues.

Marijuana Activities: Things to do in Colorado

Colorado, a state blessed with 300 days of sunshine a year and nearly 1,000 places to legally buy marijuana, remains active no matter the time of year. Heat, sleet, or snow, you'll find residents ready for a hike or snowshoe expedition, and the cannabis industry has the potential to reshape how adults experience this epic state!

Cannabis Tours

Across the Centennial State, the cannabis industry has given rise to a new segment of tourism in America. Marijuana tours in Colorado range in complexity and style and are designed to provide wonderful experiences to cannabis-curious adults over age 21.

Looking for a day-long trek (9:30am to 4:20pm) into Colorado's vast mountain ranges for an elevated experience full of historical information, great views, and multiple opportunities to consume marijuana and marijuana products 100% legally? There are several tour companies, such as Durango Artisanal Cannabis Tours, that combine the high altitude natural environment with Colorado's rugged history in mining and industry, all while providing an outlet for travelers to legally consume cannabis - no matter the season!

For those interested in staying closer to the population centers, Lighthouse Cannabis Project is a private tour in Denver that provides an in-depth look at the amazing innovations and intricacies of Colorado's marijuana industry. The tour picks up in downtown Denver, delivering you to an active growing facility for one of Colorado's leading dispensaries, Terrapin Care Station.

Smoking lounges and social clubs

Colorado will allow smoking within a business under very specific circumstances. However, dispensaries (both recreational and medical) cannot allow consumption. A few other examples of places NOT to smoke are in parks, your car, an alley, the sidewalk, and any place that may fall under the neither "open nor public" wording of Amendment 64.

The Details on Colorado Smoking Lounges

Denver voters passed Ordinance 300 , a city measure creating a regulatory framework for permitting neighborhood sponsored social use of cannabis within businesses and events, in late 2016. With the legislative session currently in process, it will be summer 2017 before applications are made available.

If you are in the Denver metropolitan area, where over 40% of marijuana licenses are operating, look to South Denver's Studio 420. Studio 420 is a members-only cannabis friendly pipe and tobacco shop in Englewood just south of downtown. Offering a clean, open environment filled with dab rigs, e-nails, pipes, bongs, papers, and grinders. Studio 420 boasts a variety of snacks and entertainment options (Netflix, video games, etc.), creating an inviting social experience teeming with THC and terpenes.

It is important to note any of the existing social clubs cannot provide cannabis at any point, so you'll have to bring your own. Though, in many cases, the club's camaraderie leads to a high degree of sharing.

Classes & Activities

Home to a host of truly adventurous citizens, Colorado hosts a wide variety of classes that incorporate marijuana across the state. These cannabinoid-laden activities range from cooking and eating to painting, glassblowing, pottery, and exercise.

Puff & Paint

A Coloradoan twist on the canvas & cocktails trend, companies based in Denver, Colorado Springs, and Loveland offer painting classes where cannabis use is an integral part of the experience. You'll spend two hours laughing, consuming, and creating enlivened paintings that will forever echo the elevated state of mind you were in when you painted it.

Puff, Pass, & Pottery

Hop on a potter's wheel and rediscover the playful creativity of your youth. You can create whatever your heart desires. Whether you need a vase, coffee mug, ashtray, or something more individual, this two-hour class brings imaginative focus and creative energies to the forefront of Colorado's marijuana industry, showing just how easily cannabis can integrate into the broader society.

Cannabis & Yoga

An ancient plant meets an ancient practice in the modern world. Is it exercise, recreation, or intoxication? It's all three! The mind and body are the focus of yoga, and as luck would have it, THC and other cannabinoids interact with both the brain and nervous system. Yoga and cannabis function synergistically, becoming an unrivaled sensory experience.

Cooking with Cannabis: Intro to Expert

Marijuana brownies, while delicious, aren't the pinnacle of marijuana cooking. Whether you have cooked with marijuana before or not, Denver boasts many beginner cooking classes designed to help you understand the infusion methods and dose calculations for edibles and medicated meals. Advanced classes are also available.

The 4/20 Rally

April 20 is synonymous with marijuana culture and is well known for being the day of great 420 marijuana deals and events. 4/20 comes and goes with each passing year, and Colorado always plans a party. Crowds over 70,000 swarm Civic Center Park in Denver. In 2016, talents Lil' Wayne & Wiz Khalifa performed. The World Cannabis Week kicks off the week leading up to 4/20, inspiring attendance from marijuana-fueled with vendors, art exhibits, musicians, performers, innovators, entrepreneurs, and, of course, the loyal friends of marijuana.

The rally itself is complete with food, entertainment, and a low, hovering plume of smoke and vapor.

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