Is Recreational Weed Legal in Colorado?

Medically reviewed by Alexander Tabibi, MD
August 5, 2021
Cannabis Colorado Legal or no
Cannabis Colorado Legal or no

Yes, in Colorado, weed/marijuana is recognized as a completely legal substance for both recreational and medicinal use.  As long as the person is of at least 21 years of age, weed can be used legally, no matter if you live in Denver or Boulder.


History of Weed Laws

Medical cannabis has been legal in The Centennial State since 2000, as a result of voter approval of Initiative 20, which effectively became Amendment 20 in the state’s constitution (article XVIII, section 14).  It determined that medical marijuana could be used legally, and even led to the development of a card-based system for patients and caregivers to acquire marijuana.  Eventually, medical, and recreational cannabis laws were combined into one law.


On November 6 of 2012, the Colorado Marijuana Legalization Act (Amendment 64) was passed by voters, allowing marijuana to be used recreationally by adults 21 years of age or older.  Taxes were developed for sales and cultivation.


Colorado then passed HB 1230 in 2019, allowing businesses to obtain licenses in order to sell cannabis in various business environments including lounges, tasting rooms and other types of hospitality venues.  This allows cannabis consumers to legally use products in various types of business locations. 


Presently, the state’s marijuana industry is regulated by the Colorado Department of Revenue, which maintains laws and standards pertaining to cultivation, sales, licensing for dispensaries, and other aspects of the state market.  Products are held to strict testing standards to ensure safety and authenticity, while the medical marijuana industry is mainly overseen by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.


Where Can a Person Legally Purchase Weed in Colorado?

Anyone over the age of 20, or anyone with a valid medical license or caregiver status can purchase cannabis at any state-licensed dispensary in the state of Colorado.  The state does permit caregivers to make purchases on behalf of a medical patient without them being present. But, they must provide proof from the state that they are an authorized caregiver.  Throughout the state, there are recreational dispensaries that are accessible to medical patients, as well as strictly medical dispensaries that are only available to those with medical verification.


There is a sales tax on medical marijuana purchases, as well as a separate 15% retail tax for recreational sales that is paid at the time of transaction.  Wholesalers must pay a 15% tax on their first sale to a licensed retailer, and this tax gets accounted for in the price of a product. 


Cannabis delivery is also legal in Colorado, both for medical and recreational users.  In both instances, legal verification is required. 

  • For a recreational sale, the purchaser must proof they are 21 or older with a valid ID. 
  • For medical patients, a medical card must be supplied, or proof of caregiver status.  Residents cannot bring marijuana to Denver International Airport or any other airport within the state.


Where Can Cannabis Legally Be Used?

Cannabis use is prohibited in public spaces, with the exception of state-authorized businesses that permit cannabis to be used recreationally, as the state is quite liberal with permitting hospitality businesses to obtain licenses to allow for cannabis consumption by visitors.  Otherwise, users must only use cannabis at home or at other private residences.


It is strictly illegal to consume cannabis while in a car, and those who are caught driving while under the influence are subjected to stringent penalties.  Passengers are also prohibited from consuming cannabis inside a vehicle.


Possession Laws

It is legal for Colorado residents to possess up to one full ounce of cannabis, or 8 grams of concentrate.  Adults can also give but not sell this amount to other adults.  Meanwhile, medical patients can possess up to 2 ounces of cannabis.


Can Residents Grow Their Own?

It is legal to grow up to 12 individual marijuana plants on a residential property whether you are a medical patient or not.  This applies to any number of adults who live within a home.  A caregiver can grow marijuana on a patient’s behalf, but must be registered with the state in order to do so. 


Medical Marijuana

Patients can acquire a state-licensed medical card through the state, which offers a form of ID that can be presented at dispensaries.  Also, caregivers can register with the state to acquire an ID on a patient’s behalf.  IDs must be renewed each year. Plus, minors can only acquire authorization from the state through a parent or legal guardian’s submittal of two physician’s certificates.


Qualifying Conditions:

  • Any condition in which a doctor would prescribe an opioid
  • Autism
  • Cachexia
  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • Muscle spasm disorders
  • PTSD
  • Seizures and other symptoms associated with epilepsy
  • Severe nausea
  • Severe or chronic pain


Patient Qualifications:

A patient can qualify as a medical marijuana cardholder if they’re diagnosed with one of the conditions above. And, if it is determined by a physician that marijuana is a suitable treatment plan.  A statement must be provided to the state from the physician during the application process.


How to Register for Medical Marijuana in Colorado

To register as a medical marijuana patient, you will need to register online through the state-provided application process and provide a letter certification from your physician.  You also need to send a copy of your photo ID issued by the state.  There is a $25 fee for submitting.


Qualifying as a Caregiver

A caregiver must be at least 18 years of age, and a permanent resident of Colorado.


Registering as a Caregiver

Caregivers must register each year with the CDOR Caregivers Registry.


Reciprocity Laws

Any adult from out of state with a valid ID proving their age can purchase marijuana for recreational use from a licensed dispensary.  But, you cannot purchase from a medical marijuana dispensary as an out-of-state resident.


Licensing Laws

The CDOR provides licenses to cannabis businesses throughout the state, including those who cultivate, manufacture, sell and test cannabis products.  The state requires that all products are tested by a third-party laboratory, and that the reports are provided to the state.  The testing process identifies impurities, contaminants and other potential hazardous compounds that could endanger consumers.  The compound profiles are also identified.


Frequently Asked Questions


#1: When Did Weed Become Legal in Colorado?

Recreational cannabis use was legalized in Colorado in 2012, making it the first state to do so. 


#2: Is it Legal to Dab in Colorado?

Possessing concentrates up to a certain amount is legal in Colorado, which means that dabbing as a practice is fully legal.  You can find cannabis concentrates and dabbing hardware throughout the state.


#3: Can I Have an Open Container of Weed in My Car?

You cannot have an open container of marijuana in your car.  In fact, this can lead to serious penalties as it is highly illegal.


#4: Can I Have Weed Delivered to My Home?

Colorado does have a state-regulated weed delivery program that is available to both medical and recreational users.  You must find a dispensary that offers a delivery service, and provide your ID at the time of the transaction.


#5: Can I Acquire a Medical Card as a Minor?

As a minor, you will need to have a parent or legal guardian file on your behalf, and you must be diagnosed with one of the qualifying conditions as determined by the state.


#6: Can I Consume Weed in Public?

It is illegal to consume cannabis in public spaces other than hospitality venues that are licensed by the state to permit cannabis use within their property.  You can consume cannabis in your home or at another private residence.  Public consumption can result in a fine.


#7: Is Cannabis Taxed in Colorado?

Residents who wish to purchase cannabis in Colorado will have to pay a sales tax which is determined by the state.