SUMMARY: Fifty-four percent of voters approved Amendment 20 on November 7, 2000, which amends the state’s constitution to recognize the medical use of marijuana. The law took effect on June 1, 2001. It removes state-level criminal penalties on the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients who possess written documentation from their physician affirming that he or she suffers from a debilitating condition and advising that they “might benefit from the medical use of marijuana.” (Patients must possess this documentation prior to an arrest.) Patients diagnosed with the following illnesses are afforded legal protection under this act: cachexiacancerchronic painchronic nervous system disordersepilepsy and other disorders characterized by seizuresglaucomaHIV or AIDSmultiple sclerosis and other disorders characterized by muscle spasticity; and nausea. Other conditions are subject to approval by the Colorado Board of Health. Patients (or their primary caregivers) may legally possess no more than two ounces of usable marijuana, and may cultivate no more than six marijuana plants. The law establishes a confidential state-run patient registry that issues identification cards to qualifying patients. Patients who do not join the registry or possess greater amounts of marijuana than allowed by law may argue the “affirmative defense of medical necessity” if they are arrested on marijuana charges.

The medical use provisions in Colorado do not include reciprocity provisions protecting visitors from other medical use states.

AMENDMENTS: Yes. House Bill 1284, signed into law on June 7, 2010, establishes state provisions regulating medical cannabis dispensaries. The law requires medical marijuana dispensing facilities to obtain state and local licensing approval and to be in compliance with all local zoning codes. Dispensaries must pay a state licensing fee, shall be located no closer than 1,000 feet from a school or daycare (municipalities have the authority to issue exemptions to this rule), and operators must oversee the cultivation at least 70 percent of the marijuana dispensed at the center. Licensed dispensary owners will be required to undergo criminal background checks by the state.

House Bill 1284 imposes a statewide moratorium on the establishment of new dispensaries, beginning in July 2010. HB 1284 also grants local municipalities the authority to prohibit the establishment of dispensaries in their community. Individual caregivers are legally permitted to provide medical cannabis for up to five patients in localities that have formally banned dispensaries.

Full text of the law is available here.

AMENDMENTS: Yes. Senate Bill 109, signed into law on June 7, 2010, limits the authority of physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to patients with which the doctor has had a prior counseling relationship.

Full text of the law is available here.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA STATUTES: C.O. Const. art. XVIII, §14 (2001) (codified as §0-4-287 art. XVIII).

Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-18-406.3 (2001) (interpreting the provisions of the ballot initiative and constitutional amendment).

Colo. Rev. Stat. § 25-1.5-106 (2003) (originally enacted as § 25-1-107(1)(jj) (2001)) (describing the powers and duties of the Colorado Department of Public Health).

CAREGIVERS: Yes. Primary caregiver is a person other than the patient or the patient’s physician. The caregiver must be 18 years of age or older. A patient can only have one primary caregiver at a time. A patient who has designated a primary caregiver for himself or herself may not be designated as a primary caregiver for another patient. A primary caregiver may be listed on the medical marijuana registry for no more than 5 patients. Colo. Rev. Stat. §25-1.5-106 (2), (10) (2001).

CONTACT INFORMATION: Application information for the Colorado medical marijuana registry is available online or by writing:

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
4300 Cherry Creek Drive South
Denver, CO 80246-1530
Phone:             303-692-2184