Cannabis 101: Legal marijuana in Colorado doesn’t mean anything goes

By Lauren Glendenning
Brought to you by Tumbleweed Dispensary

Visitors to Colorado might have images in their minds of a cannabis free-for-all that includes public consumption and a stoned-all-the-time populace, but that couldn’t be further from the Centennial State’s truth.

Since Colorado voters legalized recreational marijuana in November 2012 – recreational stores weren’t permitted to open until more than a year later on Jan. 1, 2014 – cannabis has faced tough scrutiny in the state. Laws focus on honoring the will of the people, but they also aim to protect public safety and children.

Ridge Curington, director of operations for Tumbleweed Dispensary, which has seven locations from Frisco to De Beque, says it’s important for the state’s marijuana industry to help educate residents and visitors about how to consume cannabis responsibly and legally in Colorado.

“Penalties for violating marijuana laws range from a fine to possible jail or prison time,” he says.

Many of the state’s laws that regulate the industry have little significance to consumers, but these are the laws that consumers should know before using marijuana in Colorado.

Quality control

All marijuana sold in a retail facility goes through a series of potency, pesticide and residual testing mandated by the state, Curington says. This is important for consumers who want to feel confident that what they’re ingesting is safe.

21 and over

Just like with alcohol, anyone purchasing recreational/retail marijuana in Colorado must be 21 or older. Retail stores will refuse sales to those who don’t have ID. It’s also a felony to give or share retail marijuana with anyone under the age of 21.

“Only individuals 21 years and older are able to buy, possess or use retail marijuana,” Curington says. “It is illegal to sell or give retail marijuana to minors.”

Use it privately

If you’ve ever smelled marijuana smoke in a public place, chances are it’s being used illegally.

“Retail marijuana is intended for private, personal use. Such use is only legal in certain locations not open or accessible to the public,” Curington says. “Marijuana may not be consumed openly or publicly.”

This includes all forms of marijuana consumption, smoking, eating or vaping, according to state laws. And public places include everything from ski resorts to music venues to parks, sidewalks and roads.

Basically, use it at home. If you’re staying in a hotel or other accommodations, check with management to find out if it’s allowed on property.

Federal lands

Because marijuana is still considered an illegal Schedule I drug under federal law, it also remains illegal on federal lands in Colorado. Thanks to our majestic mountains and forests, about 36 percent of the total land in the state is federally owned and protected. So just because you’ve set up a campsite in a remote location that might feel private enough to consume cannabis, if you’re in a national park or national forest, it’s still illegal to even possess marijuana.

What happens in Colorado stays in Colorado

You’re on an epic vacation and you’ve taken in Colorado’s endless outdoor recreation, and maybe a little marijuana to boot. You can’t wait to tell your friends back home about your experience here, but the storytelling is where it has to end. You cannot take legally purchased marijuana out of the state. Ever.

“It is illegal to transfer any amount of retail marijuana, medical marijuana or any marijuana infused products across state lines,” Curington says.

Rules of the road

It remains illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana in Colorado. Getting caught could result in a DUI. While the legal limit for alcohol is .08 blood alcohol content (BAC), the limit for marijuana is five nanograms or more of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) per milliliter of blood. The state recommends waiting at least six hours before driving if you’ve smoked marijuana and waiting at least eight hours if you’ve ingested it.

If you’ve just purchased marijuana in a retail store and you’re driving back to your home or hotel, you can’t open the marijuana packaging until you’re home. Keep it sealed when it’s in your car.

“We always like to tell people to keep it in the trunk if they are going to be driving – kind of like an open bottle of alcohol,” Curington says. “It just looks better if they get pulled over.”

One ounce only

“Adults 21 years or older can legally purchase one ounce (28 grams) of retail marijuana or the equivalent (other marijuana products), per day,” Curington says.