After a sharp rise in reported cases of children accidentally consuming marijuana, the Colorado health department proposed a ban on all edible marijuana products. Under the ban, only lozenges and tinctures would be able to be legally sold by marijuana retailers. Popular items—such as marijuana baked goods and chocolates—would be prohibited. Naturally, the proposal was met with industry outrage. Marijuana advocates argued that edible pot could not constitutionally be banned under Amendment 64, which legalizes retail marijuana of all forms.
Partially due to this reaction, the health department has since retracted its proposal, saying that they did not claim the proposal was constitutional, but had hoped it would produce discussion. “”Considering only the public health perspective… edibles pose a definite risk to children,” health department executive director Larry Wolk told The Denver Post, “that’s why we recommended limiting marijuana-infused products to tinctures and lozenges.”
The proposal was one of several made to state marijuana regulators, indicating that pot remains a sensitive and controversial issue in our state. Had the proposal been passed, it would join the many restrictions on marijuana already that remain in place despite the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Those who partake of the drug or work in the marijuana industry would do well to remember that though marijuana may be legal, irresponsible usage can result in hefty fines and imprisonment. Here are some important legal restrictions on marijuana use you should be aware of:
Smoking marijuana while operating a motorized vehicle
Just as drinking and driving is a serious offense, drivers can be heavily penalized for driving under the influence of marijuana. A recently passed Colorado law limits delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (aka THC) levels to five nanograms per milliliter of blood when operating a vehicle. Violators can be subject to fines, prison time, and loss of license.
Possessing an open container of marijuana in a motor vehicle
Much like possessing open cans of beer or bottles of liquor, having an open container of marijuana, a container of marijuana with a broken seal, or evidence of consumption in the passenger area of your vehicle is illegal. The law is not 100 percent clear on what constitutes an “open container,” so your safest bet is to keep marijuana stowed away in the trunk.
Possessing or consuming marijuana while underage
To legally possess, consume, or grow marijuana, you must be over the age of 21 and able to furnish a valid government-issued ID proving this. If you are found in possession of marijuana as a minor, consequences can range from expulsion from school to a prison sentence.
Similarly, it is illegal to sell or give pot to minors. Under recent legislation, adults can face felony charges if they are caught selling weed to minors more than three years younger than them.
Smoking marijuana in public
While Amendment 64 may have legalized recreational use of marijuana, it prohibits its “open and public consumption.” The ordinance bans the use of marijuana in all public areas, including parks, bars, and marijuana retail shops. This means you can only legally smoke pot at private residences—and only with the permission of the owner or landlord.
Possessing or growing more than the legal amount
Adults over the age of 21 are legally allowed to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use. Being caught with more than one ounce of marijuana in your possession is a criminal offense, and penalties may include fines and imprisonment—depending on the amount.
Similarly, it is a crime to grow more than six marijuana plants for personal use. Of these six, only three may be mature. In addition, home and business owners can get into legal trouble if they knowingly allow marijuana plants to grow on their property.
Bringing marijuana out of state
The right to recreational marijuana use is not recognized by most other states and many other countries. Visitors and residents of Colorado alike will face criminal charges if they attempt to carry or ship pot across state lines or overseas.
Bringing marijuana onto federal property
Because recreational consumption is still illegal from a federal viewpoint, it is illegal to possess or consume marijuana on federal land. This includes national parks and forests, courthouses, and military installations. The consequences of being caught with marijuana on federal land can be harsh—up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
If charged with a marijuana-related crime, talk to a Colorado defense attorney
Because Amendment 64 is a relatively new law, it still has many grey areas that need ironing out. A defense attorney who is familiar with Colorado marijuana laws can help you use these grey areas to your advantage if you are charged with a marijuana-related crime.
For instance—though you may be charged with a DUI if the amount of THC found in your bloodstream exceeds the legal limit, Colorado law recognizes that THC is metabolized at different rates for different people. Those charged with a DUI may rebut allegations by providing evidence that marijuana did not impair their ability to drive.
With the help of a knowledgeable defense lawyer, you may be able to have DUI and other marijuana-related charges dropped or reduced.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.