Marijuana Possession

Possession of two ounces or less of marijuana is still defined as a class 2 petty offense, despite the recent enactment of Amendment 64. – C.R.S. 18-18-406(5)(a)(1). The suspect receives a summons to appear in court, and upon a promise to appear in court, he or she is to be released from detention. The maximum penalty for a violation is $100. Failure to appear at the specified time and location results in the increase of the charges to a class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and or a fine of up to $750. – C.R.S. 18-18-406(5)(a)(2).

Displaying or using two or less ounces of marijuana in public is a petty offense punishable by a fine of up to $100 and up to 24 hours of useful public service. – C.R.S. 18-18-406(5)(b)(1) results in a mandatory $100 fine and the added penalty of 15 days in jail. C.R.S. 18-18-406(3)(a)(I).  Open and public use or display of more than two ounces of marijuana is punished the same as possession, according to the quantity involved, as described below.

Possession of more than two ounces, but no more than six ounces is a level 2 drug misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of $50 to $750 and a special drug offender surcharge of $300. Possession of more than six ounces of marijuana, but not more than twelve ounces, or three ounces or less of marijuana concentrate, is a class level 1 drug misdemeanor, punishable by 6-18 months in jail and/or a $500 to $5,000 fine, plus a drug surcharge of $1,000. C.R.S. 18-18-406(4)(b). Possession of more than twelve ounces of marijuana, or more than three ounces of marijuana concentrate, is a level 4 drug felony, punishable by 6 months to 1 year in prison, and/or a fine of $1000-$100,000 and a drug surcharge of $1,500. C.R.S. 18-18-406(4)(a).

The Exceptions

Medical Marijuana –  In 2000, Colorado voters approved Amendment 20, which created a legal framework regarding medical marijuana. The law did not purport to legalize the drug. But those who suffered from “debilitating medical conditions” and whose physicians stated that they “might benefit from the medical use of marijuana” could obtain state registry cards that permit them to possess, grow, and use small amounts of the drug for medicinal purposes. Under this law, qualifying patients who possess written documentation from their physician recommending the use of marijuana and are registered with the state and issued an identification card may legally possess up to two ounces of marijuana and up to six marijuana plants (no more than three of which may be mature, flowering plants). In addition, the amendment provides that a patient or his or her primary care-giver may raise, as an affirmative defense to prosecutions under state law, that greater amounts were necessary to address the patient’s debilitating medical condition. In any given case, it would be up to a jury (or judge in a trial to the court) to decide whether the greater amounts were really necessary.

Limited Personal Use  In 2012, Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, which allows persons of 21 years of age or older to purchase and possess marijuana accessories and up to one ounce of marijuana, plus up to six marijuana plants, of which no more than three may be mature. The plants must be grown in an enclosed, locked space; the cultivation may not be conducted openly or publicly and may not be made available for sale. It also allows transfer of up to one ounce of marijuana to any other person of at least 21 years of age, provided that the transfer is without remuneration. Finally, it allows personal consumption of marijuana, but does not allow it to be conducted openly or publicly or in a manner that endangers others.

Note: Among the things that Amendment 64 does not accomplish:

Driving while impaired or under the influence of drugs (DUI-D), including marijuana, is still a misdemeanor offense. Under current Colorado law, anyone with 5 nano grams of THC in their blood withing 2 hours of driving shall be presumed to be substantially incapable of operating a motor vehicle or vehicle safely and is under the influence of drugs.

•Amendment 64 only restricts the scope of state prosecutions; possession of marijuana is still a federal offense.

•Public consumption of marijuana is still an offense under C.R.S. 18-18-406.

•Employers can still regulate their employees and adopt “zero-tolerance” policies that discipline employees who test positive for the drug even if it was consumed outside the workplace.  This is true even if the employee was certified as a patient for whom marijuana was prescribed under Amendment 20.

•Sales of marijuana are still illegal unless specially licensed and all other transfers of marijuana are subject to the provisions of section 18-18-406.

The Overdose Exception Statute – Under the provisions of C.R.S. 18-1-711, a person suffering a drug and/or alcohol overdose, or a person reporting the same, in good faith, on behalf of another, is immune to criminal prosecution for most of the lower classes of marijuana possession offenses set forth in 18-18-406, above, provided that the offense arose from the same course of events that resulted in the drug overdose. This immunity does not extend to offenses involving possession of more than twelve ounces of marijuana, sales of marijuana, or transfers of any kind to minors.