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Getting a Medical Card in Colorado

Updated on November 19, 2021.  Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

Getting a Medical Card in CO

There have been some significant changes to Colorado’s medical and adult-use laws that were proposed in 2021. If you are a patient with a Colorado medical card, you will want to learn more about how these changes may impact the potency and quantities of cannabis you can buy.

After recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado, there was a significant increase in cannabis tourism. According to the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) and data from Strategy Marketing and Research Insights (SMARI), 6.2% of travelers visit the state for recreational weed. About 16% of travelers in the winter of 2018-2019 and 15% of summer tourists in 2018 visited a Colorado dispensary while vacationing.

You will find all the information you need to know about medical marijuana in Colorado on this page. You can learn if you are eligible to apply for a medical card and current laws about cannabis possession limits, and more.

If you have been thinking about getting your Colorado medical card, learn about the steps you will need to apply. Learn how to become a registered patient and how you can use medical marijuana in Colorado to help you manage health symptoms and chronic diseases.

Medical Marijuana in CO as of Summer 2021

Colorado has been viewed as a progressive state when it comes to marijuana laws. It is one of the only states that has not put a cap on the maximum potency of concentrates. But that appears to be changing now.

The Marijuana Enforcement Division licenses and regulates both the medical cannabis and adult-use laws, licenses, and regulations for businesses. That means they enforce any company in the Colorado cannabis industry, including cultivators, marijuana processors and manufacturers, and retail and medical dispensaries.

There is some growing concern about minors accessing marijuana concentrates. Some clinical studies show that high potency THC can have a negative effect on cognitive (brain) development for children up to the age of twenty-one (21).

House Bill 21-1317 was passed by the Colorado House of Representatives. It calls for an in-depth clinical study and more information on high-potency cannabis in minors under twenty-one. The bill approves the use of $4 million in marijuana tax funds to be used by the Colorado School of Public Health for research.

What Could Happen if House Bill 21-1317 Passes the Senate?

The sponsors of House bill 21-1317 are Representative Alec Garnett, Representative Yadira Caraveo, and Colorado Senators Chris Hansen and Paul Lundeen. 

If HB 21-1317 passes, it will change the medical and adult-use marijuana programs by:

  • Capping maximum potency of cannabis products to 15%
  • Patients 18-20 years old would require two signatures from two different physicians to apply for a medical card.
  • Reducing the maximum amount of concentrated cannabis that can be purchased daily from 40 grams to 2 grams.
  •  Introduce anti-looping laws to track all purchases in the state. This change would prevent people from visiting multiple dispensaries and purchasing more than their daily legal limit.

For more information on the impact of House Bill 21-1317, read: “ Vote to Cap THC Bill 1317 Passes in Colorado”. Residents of Colorado will have until Spring of 2022 to submit their comments to the Colorado School of Public Health. The CSPH is required to report to the Senate by July 2022.

Conditions

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment manages the patient registry for the state. The CDPHE is responsible for establishing the qualifying health conditions that a patient needs to apply for a CO medical card.

In 2021, the current qualifying health conditions to join the statewide medical marijuana program in Colorado are:

Another health condition where a primary care provider would prescribe an opioid medication, where opioids have proven to be ineffective or harmful to the patient. This can include patients undergoing opioid replacement or addiction therapies at the discretion of the provider.

Caregiver Information

A patient under eighteen (18) or an adult who requires special care will need to designate a Colorado caregiver. The caregiver must be eighteen years of age and a legal guardian or solely responsible for the patient’s well-being. 

A physician cannot be designated as a caregiver in the Colorado medical marijuana program. A primary caregiver listed on the Colorado medical cannabis registry must be responsible for no more than five (5) patients. 

Someone with a medical card in Colorado and a designated caregiver may not be assigned as a caregiver for another patient. The caregiver will be issued their card with the patients’ name on it. A Colorado caregiver cannot use the medical card for the patient they assist in purchasing cannabis for personal use.

FAQs

What is medical marijuana available in CO?

Patients who have a medical card in Colorado can purchase a variety of different cannabis products. And they enjoy special legal protections as a registered patient. 

Colorado residents with a medical card can buy the following products from more than four hundred (400) dispensaries located across the state:

  • Concentrates and distillates
  • Raw or whole flower cannabis (bud)
  • Vape carts (THC oil)
  • Edibles
  • Creams, ointments, and topical salves
  • Capsules and tablets

Medical patients in Colorado can legally possess up to 2 ounces for 40g of concentrate or 20,000 milligrams of infused products, such as edibles. Patients with severe illnesses may apply (with their primary care provider) to increase potency and maximum possession limits.

The Colorado medical cannabis program does not accept or recognize patients with cards issued from other states. There is no reciprocity for patients traveling to Colorado. However, patients that have a medical card from Colorado can legally purchase cannabis products in the following states:

  • Arizona
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • Oregon
  •  Rhode Island

Please be advised that maximum possession amounts vary for patients with a Colorado medical card traveling to another state. Check the medical marijuana laws before you leave to avoid problems.

Where do you get medical marijuana in CO?

Cannabis can be purchased at a medical marijuana dispensary or a recreational (adult-use) retail store. However, patients who want to get suggestions specific to their wellness goals should visit a medical dispensary.

It is not hard to find a medical or adult-use dispensary in Colorado. There are more than 400 locations available for residents and visitors to the state.

How do you qualify for medical marijuana in CO?

While applying for a Colorado medical marijuana card, patients must meet the criteria for registration. Anyone applying to get a medical card in Colorado must prove that they are:

  • Aged 18-21 years at the time of application
  • A resident of the state of Colorado. Providing mail addressed to the patient (utility bill or government correspondence) is required to apply for a medical card.
  • Recommended by a certified Colorado physician. A health evaluation and medical history review are required as part of Colorado’s medical card application process.
  • Diagnosed of one or more of the qualifying health conditions.

A caregiver must assist minors under the age of 18 years. This is a parent or legal guardian responsible for consulting with physicians, buying and administering cannabis on behalf of the patient. Minors under the age of 18 years are not permitted to visit or go inside a medical dispensary in Colorado.

Patients must apply and register on the Colorado Medical Marijuana Patient Registry.

  • The Application Fee is $25.00 and Non-Refundable.
  • A Copy of the patient’s Colorado Driver’s License or Identification Card must be uploaded.
  • Patients can apply by Mail by filling out the Application, including a copy of your Driver’s License or ID, with all other required documentation included on the checklist, and a Check or Money Order for the Application Fee made out to CDPHE, mailed to:

Application Processing CDPHE 

HSV-8608 

4300 Cherry Creek Dr. S. 

Denver, CO 

80246-1530

Mailed applications will take six to eight (6-8) weeks to be processed.

If approved, the patient will be notified within three to five (3-5) days. At that time, the patient can log into their Colorado MMJ registration profile and print the medical card. Then the Medical Marijuana Identification Card will be mailed to the address listed on the application afterward. 

The printable card allows patients to head right to the nearest medical dispensary within a few days. The permanent card can take up to 15 business days to arrive by mail when the application is submitted online.

When did medical marijuana in CO become legal?

Colorado was one of the states that made medical marijuana legal earlier than other states. Medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2000. And recreational cannabis (adult-use) has been legal for people over the age of twenty-one (21) years since 2012. 

Approximately 54% of Colorado residents voted for medical marijuana on November 7, 2020, when they passed Amendment 20. Colorado Amendment 64 later legalized adult use in the state.

What’s Coming Up?

Expansion of medical marijuana delivery services is expected from 2021 to 2022. Currently, only medical dispensaries in Colorado that the state has approved can provide cannabis home delivery for patients. There is one town (Aurora, Colorado) that has legalized the delivery of recreational cannabis.

Expect a crack-down on the number of concentrates that patients can purchase at a dispensary. And for a potential 15% cap on THC products in the state. Patients under eighteen may soon be required to get two (not just one) doctor recommendations for therapeutic cannabis. 

Two recommendations would be required for a minor to apply for a medical card online or by mail. Both physicians would need to agree that medical cannabis would provide a tangible benefit for their patients.

The History of Medical Marijuana in Colorado

[1800s] When Colorado first became a state in 1876, hemp and cannabis were legal to grow, buy and use. Cannabis was a relatively common medicinal product in tinctures by the late 1800s in Colorado. Hash dens were popular in major cities like NYC or San Francisco, which eventually led to the Prohibition Amendment that banned alcohol and cannabis.

[November 1914] Voters in Colorado approved the Prohibition Amendment banning alcohol. And by 1916, that ban was expanded to include cannabis. The first time Colorado restricted cannabis was on December 18th, 1917, the Eighteenth Amendment was passed by Colorado Congress.

Source Web 2021: Session Laws of Colorado 21st Assembly. 1917. Ch. 39, p. 120

The first marijuana arrest happened in 1937 after the federal government passed the Marihuana Tax Act. Two men, Moses Baca and Samuel Caldwell, were arrested for possession and distribution. Baca received only 18 months imprisonment, but Samuel Caldwell received four years of incarceration time, with hard labor and a $1,000 fine.

[1929] Colorado Legislature passes a law making the sale and distribution of marijuana a felony offense. Ethnic minorities were a clear target of the measure. The legislation was proposed after a Mexican immigrant murdered his stepdaughter in Denver the same year while under the influence of cannabis.

Source Web 2021: DenverLibrary.org

[March 29, 1965] The University of Colorado publishes an article stating how much cannabis is available to students and how many “hippies” use weed. This resulted in conversations after 1970 about lowering the legal penalties for cannabis possession.

Source Web 2021: Origins.Osu.edu

[1973] Carbondale Colorado Republican Michael Strang was the first to introduce cannabis re-legalization efforts. The ‘Strang Bill’ would have given the state a $6 per ounce tax on any quantity of marijuana sold. The average cost of an ounce of cannabis in the early 1970s in Colorado was about $15. The proposal did not pass the Senate.

Source Web 2021: ColoradoEncyclopedia.org

[1975] Colorado follows the state of Oregon by reducing penalties for marijuana possession and decriminalizing personal use amounts. Instead of being a felony crime, it was reduced to a petty offense and misdemeanor. The maximum fine was set to $100 and up to fifteen days in jail.

Source Web 2021: Cato.org

[1989] States, including the Colorado Department of Revenue, begin issuing ‘drug tax stamps” to collect revenue on sales of cannabis. The system of issuing tax stamps was challenged as unconstitutional, as it was categorized as self-incrimination. A green stamp for an ounce of cannabis was $100, and a red cocaine stamp would cost a resident $1,000. However, it was indicated that there was “no tax on heroin.”

Source Web 2021: HistoryColorado.org

 

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Colorado Medical Marijuana Program: Contact Details

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
Medical Marijuana Registry
CDPHE
HSV-8630
4300 Cherry Creek Drive South
Denver, CO 80246
Phone: (303) 692-2184
Email: medical.marijuana@state.co.us
If sending Confidential Information Please Use CDPHE’s Secure Email Portal
Website: Colorado Medical Marijuana Registry

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Colorado Medical Marijuana Program: Possession and Cultivation Regulations

A patient or a primary caregiver who has been issued a Medical Marijuana Registry identification card may possess no more than two ounces of a usable form of marijuana. A patient may not have more than six marijuana plants, with three or fewer being mature, flowering plants that are producing a usable form of marijuana. Patients who do not join the registry, or possess greater amounts of marijuana than allowed by law, may argue the “affirmative defense of medical necessity,” if arrested on marijuana charges.

 

Colorado Qualification

People suffering from a wide range of conditions are eligible to legally possess medical marijuana in Colorado. These conditions include:

If you would like to learn more about Who Qualifies for Marijuana in Colorado, check out our detailed guide. This includes restrictions on age and much more information.

Colorado Medical Marijuana Laws

More than 60 cities throughout the state have allowed retail marijuana operations to operate, and experts estimate that the legal market has met approximately 70 percent of the demand for weed in Colorado. However, someone possessing between one and two ounces of cannabis can still lead to a $100 fine.

Possessing more than 12 ounces is considered a felony punishable by up to two years in jail and a find of as much as $100,000. If you would like a thorough rundown, go to our section on Colorado’s Full Medical Marijuana Laws.

Colorado Medical Marijuana Card

Even though recreational weed is legal in Colorado, there are still many advantages to patients who are eligible to receive a medical marijuana card. It allows them (or their caretakers) to grow more plants than are available to recreational users. They also pay lower taxes, and they can purchase two ounces at a time instead of one.

In addition, there are certain strains available for medical patients that are stronger than those generally available for recreational users. MarijuanaDoctors.com provides detailed information on how to get a Colorado Medical Marijuana Card.

Colorado Medical Marijuana Facts

Some cities are relatively lenient when it comes to weed consumption in public, while others are rather strict. Discretion is not only appreciated across the state – in some places, it is required by law.

There are a few private places, known as cannabis clubs, where smoking in public is legal, but users need to be aware that police in many cities will issue tickets for public weed use, much as they would for walking around town with an open container of beer. Here are a few other Colorado Medical Marijuana Facts to make sure you are as informed as possible.

Doctors in Colorado

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Dispensaries in Colorado

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