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Medical Marijuana Caregiver - Colorado

Although the State of Colorado has a medical marijuana system in place, proponents of legalization organized to gather signatures from citizens of the state to place an initiative on the 2012 election ballot that would legalize possession and use of marijuana for recreational purposes. This isn’t the first time proponents have attempted to get this matter in front of the voters of the state of Colorado because they organized and gathered signatures on petitions eight different times since 2006 and, although the measure made it to the ballots, 59% of voters rejected a constitutional amendment, which would have legalized marijuana for recreational use as long ago as 2006.

This time, the proponents had until February 15, 2012 to gather the necessary signatures and they managed to do so and submitted them to the Colorado Secretary of State for the initiative’s inclusion on the November, 2012 ballot. The Colorado Secretary of State verified voters’ signatures on February 27, 2012 and the initiative was placed on the November ballot! The resulting Colorado Marijuana Legalization Initiative was introduced as “Amendment 64 (2012)” and read as follows: 

"Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning marijuana, and, in connection therewith, providing for the regulation of marijuana; permitting a person twenty-one years of age or older to consume or possess limited amounts of marijuana; providing for the licensing of cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, and retail stores; permitting local governments to regulate or prohibit such facilities; requiring the general assembly to enact an excise tax to be levied upon wholesale sales of marijuana; requiring that the first $40 million in revenue raised annually by such tax be credited to the public school capital construction assistance funds; and requiring the general assembly to enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp?” 

The Colorado Marijuana Legalization Initiative was approved by voters during the November, 2012 election process with 54.83% of votes cast in favor of the constitutional amendment and 45.17% cast against it. The U.S. Department of Justice intends to continue enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act, stating “Neither states nor the executive branch can nullify a statute passed by Congress." Therefore, the battle continues. 

At the onset of 2013, the medical marijuana system for the State of Colorado may be rendered unnecessary if marijuana is legalized there, but the decision about how to incorporate the medical aspects into the legalization aspects has not yet been determined. The details of Colorado’s legalization of pot are still being worked out, but proponents insist that the licensing and regulation of marijuana, much like alcohol, will help keep the drug out of the hands of under age youth and will save the State of Colorado millions of dollars in marijuana offense prosecutions and resulting incarcerations, as well as generate millions of dollars in additional revenue for the State of Colorado.

On November 7, 2000, fifty-four percent (54%) of Colorado voters approved Amendment 20, which amended Colorado's state constitution to allow the medical use of marijuana.  The law became effective on June 1, 2001 and removed Colorado state-level criminal penalties for the possession, use or cultivation of medical marijuana by qualified Patients who have written certification from their physicians stating that he or she suffers from a debilitating medical condition and that the Patient "might benefit from the medical use of marijuana."  Medical marijuana Patients must be in possession of this document prior to any arrest for possession, use or cultivation of medicinal cannabis.  Medical marijuana Certified medical marijuana Patients who have been diagnosed with any of the following medical conditions are legally protected under the act: cachexia, cancer, chronic pain, chronic nervous system disorders, epilepsy (and other disorders characterized by seizures), glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, multiple sclerosis (and other disorders characterized by muscle spasticity) and nausea.  Any other medical conditions have to be approved by the Colorado Board of Health.  Medical marijuana Patients (or their Primary Caregivers) are allowed to legally possess up to two (2) ounces of useable marijuana and may grow up to six (6) medical marijuana plants.  The Colorado law also established a confidential, state-run medical marijuana Patient registry which issues identification cards to qualifying Patients.  Any medical marijuana Patient who is not on the registry or who grows or possesses marijuana in larger quantities than allowed by law may not argue the "affirmative defense of medical necessity" if they are arrested and criminally charged with possession, use or cultivation of marijuana.

RECIPROCITY:  Colorado's medical marijuana use provisions do not include reciprocity to protect medical marijuana Patients visiting Colorado from other medical use states.

AMENDMENTS:  Colorado's House Bill 1284 was signed into law on June 7, 2010 and established rules and regulations regarding medical marijuana dispensaries.  The Colorado law required facilities which dispense medical marijuana to obtain state and local licensing and to be in compliance with all local zoning codes.  Medical marijuana dispensaries are required to pay a state licensing fee, cannot be located closer than 1,000 feet from a school or daycare (municipalities have the authority to issue exemptions to this rule) and dispensary operators must oversee the cultivation of at least 70 percent (70%) of the medical marijuana dispensed at the facility.  Dispensary owners/operators are required to undergo criminal background checks conducted by the state of Colorado.  .

Colorado House Bill 1284 imposed a state-wide moratorium on the establishment of additional, new medical marijuana dispensaries, effective in July 2010.   The Bill also granted local governments the ability and authority to ban the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries in their area.  Also, individual Caregivers are legally allowed to provide medical marijuana to as many as five (5) certified Patients in localities that have formally banned the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries.  Colorado's medical marijuana law.  

AMENDMENTS:  An amendment to Colorado's medical marijuana law, Senate Bill 109, was signed into law on June 7, 2010 and limited the authority of Colorado doctors to recommend the use of medical marijuana to patients with which the doctor has had a prior counseling relationship.  Colorado's Senate Bill 109.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA STATUTES:  The statutes governing Colorado's medical marijuana laws are:  C.O. Const. art. XVIII, §14 (2001) (codified as §0-4-287 art. XVIII); Colo. Rev. Stat. §18-18-406.3 (2001); Colo. Rev. Stat. §25-1.5-106 (2003) (originally enacted as §25-1-107(1)(jj) (2001)).  

CAREGIVERS:  Colorado's medical marijuana law allows for the appointment of a Primary Caregiver and this Caregiver must be a person other than the patient or the patient’s doctor.  The Primary Caregiver must be at least 18 years old and a medical marijuana Patient can have only one (1) Primary Caregiver at a time.  Any medical marijuana Patient who has designated a Primary Caregiver may not be designated as a Primary Caregiver for another medical marijuana Patient.  Also, a Primary Caregiver can only be listed as a Caregiver on the medical marijuana registry for no more than 5 (5) medical marijuana Patients.  See Colo. Rev. Stat. §25-1.5-106 (2), (10) (2001).

CONTACT INFORMATION:  Information regarding Colorado's medical marijuana laws and information is available at Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, HSVR-ADM2-A1, 4300 Cherry Creek Drive South, Denver, CO 80246-1530 (Phone: 303-692-2184) 

Colorado Medical Marijuana Statistics:

Year Law Passed

Voter Percentage

Patient Fee

Approved Patients 2011

Possession Limit

Accepts other State Cards



$35 (annually)


2 oz usable, 6 plants
(3 mature, 3 immature)



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