Understanding Colorado’s Marijuana Legalization and Decriminalization Laws

Do you know the difference between legalization and decriminalization? The two concepts differ, and there are other elements of Colorado’s new recreational marijuana laws that individuals may find confusing. For instance, even though the laws have changed, it is still illegal to smoke marijuana in public in our state. As experienced criminal law attorneys in Colorado, we believe a general understanding of Colorado’s marijuana legalization and decriminalization laws will be helpful to its citizens.

At its core, Colorado’s Amendment 64 says that adults 21 years of age and older can legally possess one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana, or specifically, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol—the primary mind-altering ingredient of the cannabis plant.) Now for a few details…

How Do Legalization and Decriminalization Differ?

Simply put, Colorado amended its laws to make certain acts criminal but no longer subject to prosecution. If caught with a small amount of marijuana for recreational use, an individual will not be prosecuted nor go to jail and receive a criminal record. Those in Colorado from out of state will also have a constitutional right to possess and consume as well, though there are limitations in this instance. Government-issued identification (driver’s license/passport) to prove age 21 or older is required.

Purchasing Marijuana

Colorado residents are allowed to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana in a single transaction per day, while non-residents are restricted to purchasing ¼ ounce. These restrictions apply only to retail sales and not possession. An individual may visit more than one store every day, as long as the one-ounce-per-person-per-day limit is not exceeded.

Consuming Marijuana

Responsibility is required. The new amendment decriminalizing marijuana does, in no way, permit consuming marijuana “openly and publicly.” Like open-container laws, tickets will be issued for using marijuana in public. The law also prohibits the opening of cannabis clubs, in which the open use of the drug would be permitted, though private cannabis clubs may offer a day membership, which allows consumption in that venue.

Consuming marijuana on Federal land (national parks, national forests, monuments, courthouses) is strictly off-limits. Keep in mind that some Colorado ski runs are located on Federal land.

Driving Under the Influence

Colorado’s new DUI law has set a legal limit for the amount of active THC in the body’s system. The legal limit is five (5) nanograms per milliliter of blood. Because people metabolize THC at different rates, it becomes difficult to determine impairment based upon THC levels. If stopped by police for impaired driving, an individual can be required to take a blood test. As with a breathalyzer test for alcohol, refusing to take the blood test can result in penalties like loss of license. Having an accident while driving under the influence of marijuana can have serious consequences, whether you are at fault or not.

Because marijuana affects everyone differently, each case will have certain factors that impact the way in which the evidence is presented. A Colorado defense attorney familiar with marijuana laws in the state can help someone in this situation navigate the court system to obtain the best possible outcome.

Exporting Marijuana

Avoiding exportation of marijuana is an individual’s best protection. Whether transported by car over state lines or through the mail, marijuana is still subject to DEA and Federal laws. Individuals attempting to take marijuana out of Colorado may be surprised to find themselves facing Federal penalties for what is still a criminal act in most states.

Cultivating Marijuana

Under the new law, limited amounts of marijuana may be cultivated in an enclosed, locked space. An adult resident of Colorado can legally maintain up to six (6) cannabis plants on any given day, three of which can be in the flowering stage.

It is wise not to take chances with our state’s relaxed marijuana laws. If you overstep the law and need expert legal guidance, we are here to help. For a free consultation, call Ellmann & Ellman P.C. at [number type=”1″].