Marijuana
Know the Laws on Marijuana. Photo by Katheirne Hitt

Colorado’s Marijuana Laws

In Entertainment, Health & Wellness, Shopping, Things to do by Aimee Heckel1 Comment

Slow your doobie roll. While recreational and medicinal cannabis is legal in Colorado, you can’t just light up a “j” in a restaurant or get blazed and then shred the mountain.

Before you come to Boulder on a cannabis vacation, whether that’s to celebrate 4/20 or just for the novelty of it, know your rights — and wrongs.

Here’s what you need to know about Colorado’s marijuana laws to stay out of trouble.

Myth

Anyone can get high legally in Colorado.

Truth

You have to be 21 or older to smoke weed legally in Colorado. This goes for buying it, too. Just like alcohol, you can’t buy or give marijuana to minors. And no, you can’t go into a marijuana store “just to look” if you’re under age; the shops aren’t going to let you.

Myth

You can walk into any cannabis shop in Colorado and buy whatever you want.

Truth

There are two different kinds of marijuana stores: medical and retail, or recreational. Unless you have a medical card (known as a “red card”), you can’t buy anything at a medical-only shop. Only Colorado residents with a doctor’s referral can obtain one of these cards. You’ll have to find a licensed retail shop.

Myth

You can smoke weed outside in Colorado, like hanging out on the Pearl Street Mall or in the park.

Truth

Recreational marijuana is for private consumption. You aren’t allowed to smoke it openly or publicly. Do some people do it anyway? Yes. But technically, that’s against the law and definitely not advised for a tourist. You’re also not legally allowed to consume it publicly (as in edibles). This includes at music and sporting venues (yes, even Red Rocks), bars, restaurants, sidewalks, buses (and all public transportation) and public patios. You can’t even smoke at a licensed cannabis store.

Myth

You can smoke weed in your hotel room.

Truth

Many hotels forbid smoking of any kind, including marijuana, in your room or on premises. There are actually not a ton of openly cannabis-friendly hotels in Colorado. The best bet if you want to stay in a cannabis-friendly hotel is to book it through Colorado Cannabis Tours. This tour operator has special arrangements with hotels and claims it can set you up with hotels that normally don’t allow marijuana consumption but are willing to make exceptions.

You can also consider booking a smoking room, but always ask before you light up, or you might end up on the streets or with a fat fine. Just because a hotel allows tobacco smoking does not mean they are a fan of joints — or even vapes. In Colorado, it is also illegal to smoke marijuana on your hotel balcony in view of the public.

Myth

So, you can’t get high in a regular bar or coffee shop, but you can get high at special cannabis-friendly social clubs.

Truth

Nope. These kinds of businesses are illegal, according to the state.

Myth

Take a hit on the chairlift before going down the ski slopes.

Truth

Most Colorado ski resorts, including Eldora (near Boulder), are on federal land, and marijuana is still illegal federally. You can even lose your season pass or get kicked out if you’re caught consuming cannabis on the mountain.

Myth

You can find pot stores in any city in Colorado.

Truth

Not every city has a cannabis dispensary. Not even all tourist hotspots do. Before planning a 4/20 vacation to a certain location, check that city’s website and learn its laws about sale and consumption; that varies from city to city.

Myth

It’s cool to have marijuana in your car. The cops can’t arrest you.

Truth

Think of it like alcohol: It’s not permitted in an open container. It’s also illegal to get high and drive. If you have a certain threshold of THC in your blood, you can get a DUI. You can’t cruise around with a joint. You can, however, get high in the back of a limousine, if it has been hired for this purpose and the driver agrees. Only in the back seat, though.

Myth

You can carry around as much marijuana as you want on your person, in your car or in your hotel room.

Truth

You can possess up to 1 ounce of recreational marijuana. Dispensaries won’t sell you more than that at a time, anyway. Tourists used to be limited to 7 grams but now they can carry the same as residents.

Myth

You can carry more than 1 ounce of edibles, though.

Truth

The laws are the same no matter the cannabis form. Because this can get complicated with edibles and drinks, ask your “bud-tender” to help.

Myth

You don’t really have to worry about the marijuana laws. Cops in Colorado are so chill, they don’t really enforce the laws.

Truth

Don’t risk it. You can be fined or even end in up in prison if you violate the laws.

Myth

If you buy cannabis legally, you can take it out of Colorado, because it was bought in a licensed, legal dispensary.

Truth

Not a chance. Don’t take it across state lines. Don’t bring it in the Denver International Airport. If you don’t finish your edibles before you have to leave Boulder, just let them go. Don’t try to sneak them in your carry-on.

Boulder’s Cannabis Regulations

Specific regulations vary from city to city (mostly about licensing and selling), and Boulder has some of its own quirks. Although Boulder has a bit of a longstanding hippie/stoner reputation, its regulations are considered by some to be stricter than other cities.

  • Some dispensaries in Boulder close before 7 p.m. The regulations have just recently changed, permitting them to stay open until around 10 p.m.
  • Also note: You can’t get high at on Boulder County open space or on national forest land because marijuana is illegal under federal law and open space is a public area.

Want to Learn More?

Visit colorado.gov/marijuana for state laws.

Visit bouldercounty.org/doc/adminservices/mjfaq.pdf for Boulder specifics.

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