Question: I recently became a Colorado medical marijuana patient. What do I need to know to remain compliant with Colorado law?
Answer: Staying compliant with Colorado’s medical marijuana laws is as easy as keeping your paperwork organized and on your person at all times that you are engaged in the medical use of marijuana. If you haven’t yet received your medical marijuana registry card in the mail from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Medical Marijuana Registry, and more than 35 days have elapsed since you sent in your application packet, your application to the Medical Marijuana Registry coupled with your physician’s certification for the medical use of marijuana and the certificate of mailing of your packet to the Medical Marijuana Registry constitutes the legal equivalent of a medical marijuana registry card.
“Medical use of marijuana” means the acquisition, possession, production, use, or transportation of marijuana or paraphernalia related to the administration of medical marijuana to address the symptoms or effects of a patient’s debilitating medical condition. If you have your medical marijuana registry card or its legal equivalent, you can legally possess up to two ounces of raw medical marijuana and you may cultivate up to six medical marijuana plants, three of which are flowering and three of which are non-flowering. As long as you stay within these limitations, your medical marijuana registry card, or its legal equivalent, provides you with an exception to Colorado’s criminal statutes regarding the possession and cultivation of marijuana.
You also may possess more raw medical marijuana and cultivate more medical marijuana plants than the presumptive two ounce/six plant limits if your physician has certified that the elevated amounts of medical marijuana are medically necessary to treat the symptoms of your debilitating medical condition. A common reason for an increased plant count or increased ounce amount is if you are making an edible form of medical marijuana that requires much more raw medical marijuana to produce than if you are merely smoking medical marijuana. However, the Colorado Constitution does not provide an exception to Colorado’s criminal statutes for amounts of raw medical marijuana over the two ounce/six plant limits. The Colorado Constitution does provide an affirmative defense to criminal charges for possession or cultivation of marijuana in excess of the two ounce/six plant presumptive limits, but this defense must be raised once a criminal prosecution is initiated by the district attorney.
If you are contacted by law enforcement and you are over these limits, it is even more imperative that your medical marijuana paperwork is organized and accessible so that you may establish that your physician advised that the additional amounts of medical marijuana are medically necessary. If you are a medical marijuana patient and have been charged under Colorado’s criminal statutes related to marijuana, please seek the advice of counsel, as Colorado’s medical marijuana laws are quite complex and judicial interpretations of these laws can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The Colorado Bar Association provides a free directory at cobar.org/directory.
The Colorado Bar Association welcomes your questions on subjects of general interest. This column is meant to be used as general information. Consult your own attorney for specifics. Send questions to the CBA attn: Sara Crocker, 1900 Grant St., Suite 900, Denver, CO 80203 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Legal Lines is a question and answer column provided as a public service by the Colorado Bar Association. Attorneys answer questions of interest to members of the public for their general information.
About the Colorado Bar Association
The Colorado Bar Association is a voluntary bar association with nearly 18,000 members – almost three-quarters of all attorneys in the state – founded in 1897. The bar provides opportunities for continuing education, volunteering and networking for those in the legal profession while upholding the standards of the bar. The bar likewise works to secure the efficient administration of justice, encourage the adoption of proper legislation and perpetuate the history of the profession and the memory of its members. For more information, visit www.cobar.org.