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Marijuana Possession

While recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado, there are several laws that regulate the drug’s use and possession, including reasons for possession, age and quantity limits.

In the following article, we’ll go over Colorado’s primary restrictions on marijuana possession.

Denver Marijuana Possession Defense Attorneys

While Colorado practices lighter drug laws than many of its peers, the state still recognizes marijuana as a controlled substance. The state provides an illegal limit for marijuana, as well as penalties for its misuse, including for minors. Sometimes, however, misunderstandings can arise, and local enforcement may prosecute for reasons other than what the law allows.

When these mistakes happen, you need someone to fight for you in court. The Law Office of Matthew Martin provides experienced legal representation for those charged with drug-related crimes, including marijuana-related offenses.

Call now at (303) 725-0017 to set up your first consultation free of charge.

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Possession Laws

Colorado’s primary drug laws are found in Colorado Revised Statutes § 18-18-403.5. These laws govern the possession, manufacture and distribution of all controlled substances in Colorado, and maintain compliance with federal law, if not parity.

Marijuana is a much freer drug in Colorado than other states, and is available for recreational and medicinal use, along with its concentrate, THC. However, there are certain limitations on its use.

Public Use

It is illegal to publicly smoke marijuana, with certain medical exceptions. It is considered a petty offense to smoke 2oz or less of marijuana in public. Displaying or smoking more than 2 ounces of marijuana is charged under the state’s possession laws as a level 1 drug misdemeanor.

Possession With Intent to Distribute

While Colorado allows for the recreational use of small amounts of marijuana, the state also recognizes that the presence of fentanyl and other additives mean that the manufacture of marijuana must be regulated. It is illegal, therefore, to possess any amount of marijuana with the intent to distribute without a license.

This includes giving marijuana as compensation for some service.

The following schedule provides a breakdown of the level of crime associated with the amount of marijuana believed to be prepared for distribution.

Amount of Marijuana Level of Crime
2 – 4oz Level 1 Drug Misdemeanor
4 – 12oz Level 4 Drug Felony
12oz – 5lb Level 3 Drug Felony
5 – 50lb Level 2 Drug Felony
More than 50lb Level 1 Drug Felony

Possession Limits

The following schedule is a list of marijuana amounts and their corresponding crime level for personal use.

Amount Crime Level
6oz Level 1 Drug Misdemeanor
2 – 6oz Level 2 Drug Misdemeanor

Medical Exception

It is an exception to both public use and possession laws to use medical marijuana in a controlled environment (i.e., a clinic), and to control a prescription amount of marijuana, which may be more than 2oz.

Age Restriction

It is illegal for a person under the age of 21 to use marijuana, except for medical use. Likewise, it is illegal to sell or attempt to sell marijuana to a minor, and for a minor to purchase or attempt to purchase marijuana. Doing so is a level 1 – 4 drug felony, depending on the amount sold.

Cultivation Laws

Colorado’s cultivation laws are minimal, but overall require authorization under state law for research or recreational use, to a limit.

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The penalty for violating Colorado’s marijuana laws vary based on the drug penalty level. The following schedule provides the penalties associated with Colorado’s drug crimes.

Classification Level of Penalty Penalties
Misdemeanor 1
  • 18 months imprisonment and/or
  • $5,000
Misdemeanor 2
  • 12 months imprisonment and/or
  • $750
Felony 1
  • 8-32 years imprisonment and/or
  • $5k to $1 million
Felony 2
  • 4-8 years imprisonment and/or
  • $3k – $750k


  • 8-16 years for aggravated
Felony 3
  • 2-4 years imprisonment and/or
  • $2k – $500k


  • 4-6 years imprisonment
Felony 4
  • 6 months – 1 year and/or
  • $1k – $100k


  • 1 – 2 years

Habitual Offenders

Offenders that demonstrate a continued lapse in judgement are treated much harsher under Colorado state law. Under state law, the following penalties are applied in repeat cases:

  • 2 Prior Offenses: Defendant, if convicted of a third felony within a 10-year period, will be sentenced to a prison term three times as long as the maximum penalty for the underlying conviction.
  • 3 or More Prior Offenses: Defendant, if convicted of a fourth felony within a 10-year period, will be sentenced to a prison term four times as long as the maximum penalty for the underlying conviction.

Collateral Consequences

As a convicted drug user, you may face issues related to housing, employment and medical assistance. Employers often use felony convictions as screeners, and landlords might not be willing to rent out to felony drug convicts.

In addition, doctors may be reluctant to provide prescriptions for medicines including THC and marijuana.

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  • Lack of Possession: The defendant can argue that they were not in possession of the marijuana. This might involve showing that the marijuana belonged to someone else or that the defendant had no knowledge of its presence.
  • Medical Necessity: If the defendant is a registered medical marijuana patient, they can argue medical necessity. This requires demonstrating compliance with the state’s medical marijuana laws, including possession limits and registration requirements.
  • Illegal Search and Seizure: A key defense often used in drug possession cases involves arguing that the evidence was obtained through an illegal search and seizure, thus violating the Fourth Amendment. If the court agrees, the evidence typically cannot be used in court, which might lead to dismissal of charges.
  • Mistake of Fact: This defense might be applicable if the defendant believed that their actions were legal, possibly due to misinformation or a misunderstanding of the law. For instance, misunderstanding the legal amount one can possess could potentially be argued under this defense, though its success might vary based on the circumstances.
  • Entrapment: Although rare, entrapment occurs when law enforcement induces a person to commit a crime they would not have otherwise committed. If a defendant can prove entrapment, they might avoid conviction.

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Additional Resources

Colorado Drug Possession Laws – Findlaw provides another overview of the state’s possession laws. Follow the link to understand  more about the state’s drug scheduling, general penalties,

Colorado Marijuana Laws – Colorado’s state website provides a timeline of laws pertaining to the state’s marijuana laws. View the full text of the state’s marijuana statutes and the legal text of the laws used to put them in place.

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Hire a Marijuana Possession Attorney in Denver, Colorado

Call now at (303) 725-0017 to set up your first consultation free of charge.

Matthew Martin accepts clients throughout the greater Denver area and surrounding counties including Douglas County, Broomfield County, Jefferson County, Adams County, and Arapahoe County.

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