Is Marijuana Legal in Colorado? What You Need to Know about Colorado Marijuana

welcome to colorful colorado sign showing that there are dispensaries open on new year's in colorado

In early 2014, I took a whimsical drive with my friend to Cheyenne, Wyoming. At the time, she was a student at CSU in Fort Collins, so it wasn’t a far drive to the state line at all. Generally, I don’t care about stopping at state-lines for photos, but we did. Nowadays if I am asked “is weed legal in Colorado”, my brain immediately loads an image from the state line: two pipes and a bubbler lined up directly beneath one leg of the sign, likely left by visitors or provided by locals on their way out.

So is marijuana legal in Colorado? On the state level, yes, yes — a big resounding yes, it is. Oh thank federalism! Before we delve too deep into further into answering this question, however, Let’s take a brief look at the legislative history of Colorado and cannabis. While many states have legalized medical or recreational use of cannabis, Colorado has had over 16 years to evolve its policy on cannabis.

Policy that Passed

When discussing ‘is weed legal in Colorado’, we can start all the way back in 2000 when Initiative 20 narrowly passed and Colorado, for the first time, began its non-criminal relationship with marijuana.

  • Initiative 20: Approved in 2000, established a medical marijuana network in Colorado. This allowed for patients with certain conditions to receive marijuana for treatment.
  • House Bill 1284: Enacted in 2007, this bill developed the framework for marijuana regulation across Colorado.
  • Senate Bill 109: Required doctors prescribing marijuana in Colorado to keep thorough records in an attempt to prevent fraudulent or abusive behavior. This bill asked that doctors remain in good standing with DEA and must provide a physical examination to all patients they recommend for marijuana.
  • Amendment 64: Is weed legal in Colorado, you asked? Amendment 64, along with Washington Initiative 502, became the first two states ballot measures proposing the legalization of the use of marijuana for anyone above the age of 21. Amendment 64 was approved in 2012.
  • Colorado Proposition AA: Prop AA was designed to fulfill the education and regulatory requirement set by Amendment 64 through a set the taxes on retail sales of marijuana in the state of Colorado. Cumulatively, the tax rate is near 28% on retail marijuana sales (15% tax for schools, 10% for regulation, 2.9% because that’s what sales tax is for everything else).
  • Colorado Proposition BB: In order for the state of Colorado to keep excess tax revenues, the citizens have to vote on it. Prop BB, introduced in 2015, allowed the state to use $66 million dollars of collected marijuana tax revenues for school and education facilities, and other social services.

Policy Measures that were Defeated

  • Initiative 44: If asked ‘is marijuana legal in Colorado’ in 2006, the answer could be almost. Defeated by ~17%, Initiative 44 would have decriminalized marijuana across the state for all residents age 21 or older. This is kind of like the precursor to Amendment 64, though it’s scope is significantly less ambitious.

While not all measures even make it to the ballot, many of the regulations regarding cannabis in Colorado don’t even come from elections. The Colorado General Assembly created a division of the Department of Revenue aptly named the ‘Marijuana Enforcement Division’ or MED, to oversee the creation, implementation, and administration of marijuana sales within Colorado.

What to Expect

When you ask ‘is weed legal in Colorado’, it is the MED that answers. A look at the Marijuana Enforcement section of the Colorado Department of Revenue website provides you with access to literally anything and everything related to cannabis regulation in Colorado. The website displays information:

  1. regarding legal, constitutional statutes and regulations;
  2. on licensing and applications to meet that purpose;
  3. communicating their stakeholder and organizational mission, partners, tax information and other organizational and state resources.

In addition, the website is host to a very helpful FAQ and the website makes it easy to find the information you need when you are stuck wondering is weed legal in Colorado? The website is easily navigated and is definitely worth checking out if you are wondering about the legality of Colorado marijuana so check it out with any unanswered questions

Anyone asking is marijuana legal in Colorado?, I tend to assume two things about –even though I know there is a lot of other reasons. 1.) You are thinking about visiting Colorado 2.) You use cannabis or are interested in using cannabis. Using these two assumptions, you can see how regulatory agencies such as MED target behaviors to encourage safe use through regulatory policy. For example, let’s look at some of the changes that were enacted this month in a further effort to maximize benefit to society.

  • You can’t use the word candy or it’s plural in the name of any marijuana product, an effort to reduce possible confusion in product marketing.
  • Recreational sales permits only 8 grams of concentrates, based on the idea that 1/8th of flower (3.5 grams) is equivalent to 1 gram of concentrate, meant to encourage responsible use.
  • Edibles are required to be individually marked with new, universal THC symbol and are to be in 10mg doses for recreational sales. Medical edibles (or medibles, as I call them) must bear the same universal symbol, but the dosage is up to the producer.

A few other examples of types of regulations you may encounter when answering “is weed legal in Colorado” are:

ID requirements: Do they use scanners? Are there differences in purchase limits for in-state vs. out-of-state?

Transport requirements: What sort of packaging for retailers? For the consumer? Is consumer transport of plants allowed? Where you can go?

Growing requirements: Is there a limit on how many plants you can grow? Can you sell what you grow? Do the plants have to be grown indoors?

Is Marijuana Legal in Colorado?

My hope is that by now you know the answer to “is weed legal in Colorado” and can understand the different marijuana-centric measures that have been voted into law here in Colorado a bit better. My hope is that you look at regulation as good measure while the illegality in most places causes stagnation in industry standards while it is going through vast, rapid changes. We want to do this right, the cannabis industry as a whole, and when you search “is marijuana legal in Colorado”, I want you to be aware of just how well we are evolving.