Medical Marijuana: What’s Legal in Colorado?

Medical marijuana is a hot-button issue in many states including Colorado, where it has been legalized under certain circumstances. The purpose of medical marijuana is to provide people who deal with chronic pain, nausea and other symptoms due to acute illness with another avenue of relief.

The state of Colorado has passed Amendment 20 in favor of medical marijuana, which can be dispensed by approved providers and prescribed to patients with Registry Identification cards.

However, Amendment 20 is not a free pass for marijuana use. Colorado has created an environment that does not tolerate irresponsible use of medical marijuana, and it does not restrict the rights of employers, foster care agencies, police officers or adoption organizations to take adverse actions against those who use prescribed medical marijuana.

Employers, for example, can still fire workers who test positive for marijuana, even if they have a medical marijuana registry card. They can make their own rules about tolerance and decide cases accordingly. This is especially true in industries where the use of marijuana and other drugs could lead to on-the-job accidents.

El Paso County's Department of Human Services has likewise decided that they will not place foster children in homes where a resident has a medical marijuana card. The agency has put this policy in place because many children have already been exposed to drugs and alcohol in previous homes and should not have access to marijuana, so granting such placements would place kids in undue risk.

As for police officers, they can still arrest Colorado citizens for DUI if they are caught driving under the influence of medical marijuana. Medical marijuana is still considered a controlled substance that impairs a driver's ability to control the vehicles.

Because Amendment 20 limits the quantity of medical marijuana a registry member or dispensary can have on hand, trafficking charges may still apply for those who exceed these limits. Registry card holders may still be ticketed or arrested for possession if they are holding more than the state of Colorado allows, and police officers are investigating law-breakers.

Dispensaries, for example, are limited to the number of plants they can have in their facilities, and if they exceed those limits, they may face fines and charges.

Furthermore, Colorado has decided that medical marijuana cannot be used as a defense to any charges other than "possession or consumption of marijuana." This means that if you are charged for any other offense related to drug use, such as DUI, you cannot use your medical marijuana Registry Identification card as a defense in court.

Thousands of people have already applied for medical marijuana registry in Colorado, and the numbers are expected to climb. However, it is important to realize that the medical marijuana law was created to give chronically ill residents an opportunity to relieve their symptoms, and not for mass use. It is entirely possible that the rules surrounding medical marijuana will continue to evolve as Colorado processes applications and deals with offenders.