Colorado’s innovative recreational marijuana laws are an exciting experiment in social policy that have captured the attention of the entire world.
With great power comes great responsibility though, and law enforcement officials will be aggressively cracking down on illegal possession and drugged driving to make the rules clear as the drug becomes more prevalent. In order to better understand our state’s groundbreaking legislation, here are our answers to some of the most commonly-asked questions—especially in regards to drug-related driving offences.
First and foremost, the basic rules of legalized recreational marijuana drug use are:
Coloradoans may only possess or purchase 1 ounce of marijuana at a time.
Smoking, vaporizing, or consuming cannabis in public places (i.e., Red Rocks; Coors Field; 16th Street Mall; parking lots; or airports) is absolutely forbidden.
Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal.
Correct–to an extent. All legal residents of Colorado 21 years and older may possess, use, display, purchase, or transport 1 ounce (nearly 60 joints) or less of marijuana for recreational use. However, several cities and counties have passed their own amendments to make things such as marijuana growing facilities or retail pot shops illegal (here’s looking at you, Colorado Springs, Westminster, and Centennial!). [Our handy map details the laws in each county or city, so make sure you know what’s good in your ‘hood first – COMING SOON]. Similarly, your employer has the right to create his or her own policies regarding marijuana use amongst employees—even in the privacy of their own homes.
This is a common misconception. The federal government still considers marijuana illegal, which means any evidence that you have partaken in or purchased the drug could affect your federal student loans, certain employment positions, and social benefits such as food stamps or public housing. Furthermore, drug offences will always show up on your background checks.
Not exactly. While they won’t record any personal information, all marijuana retail stores are required to position a security camera on the cash register to ensure safety and compliance with the laws.
No way. You cannot supply marijuana to anyone younger than 21—even if it’s free and not for monetary compensation. Also, the zero-tolerance law means individuals under 21 face an automatic loss of their license if they are found driving under the influence of marijuana.
Only if he has a government-issued Colorado ID. Non-residents may purchase up to ¼ an ounce of marijuana per transaction, whereas they may possess one full ounce at a time. Essentially, your friend could make four different purchases in one day, but that’s a gray issue where the consequences, or lack thereof, just aren’t explicit so far.
The legal limit is 5 nanograms or less of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the active ingredient in marijuana) per milliliter in whole blood. This isn’t a great measurement because different strains of marijuana carry different potencies of THC; also, people metabolize the drug at far more diverse rates than alcohol. For this reason, you’ll likely never see a chart that tells you how many joints or brownies are too many to get behind the wheel.
If they have a justifiable reason, law enforcement officials suspicious of drugged driving will request a blood draw. As this Westword article points out, these blood tests have not yet been refined and they do remain quite inaccurate. In this case, the reporter’s blood test showed that he was heavily stoned hours after he had last smoked anything. Other experts believe people build up a tolerance to the drug and they might still be sober at 5 nanograms. We urge you to highly consider refusing the blood test if the situation arises. If you do take the test, make sure you secure one of the blood samples to reaffirm the results independently later on.
A urine test has no value when it comes to marijuana because traces of the drug may show up in your system long after you’re sober. A blood test is the only accurate indicator of active THC at the moment.
No, it isn’t. Not only is smoking marijuana banned in public places like restaurants and stadiums, it’s also expressly forbidden on any federal lands—which include a number of Colorado’s famed mountain resorts. Likewise, you won’t be able to smoke pot in your tent at Rocky Mountain National Park or while wandering around our national monuments either. Possession of marijuana on any federal lands is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
It is true, just not easy. An individual may possess six marijuana plants, with three or fewer being in bloom at a time, for personal use. In Denver, a household of two or more adults may possess a combined twelve plants. If you can prove you grew the marijuana yourself, your personal allowance increases and you may legally possess 4 ounces; you are not permitted to sell the harvest to other consumers though. Some HOAs are beginning to ban marijuana cultivation, but there’s debate about whether they can legally do that or not; the issue ought to be settled in court in the near future.
With alcohol, they must prove a person’s BAC (blood-alcohol content) is 0.08 or more within two hours of driving. They haven’t issued a defined time period for drug testing yet but, rest assured, it will be something “reasonable.”
Possibly. As with DUIs, you could lose your license for a year if you do refuse the blood test. Unlike drunk driving though, there won’t be any administrative penalties on your record; this is important because marijuana consumption continues to be banned at the federal level. Remember, however, that you can always politely decline to do the standardized field sobriety tests (walking in a straight line, reciting the alphabet backwards, etc.) without penalty.
In short, there are special tests designed for assessing drug intoxication and not every police officer is trained in those quite yet. Law enforcement officials uneducated in marijuana recognition certainly won’t help your case as they don’t have the resources to make an accurate judgment of your sobriety.
No, the mere presence of cannabis in your blood is not enough to arrest you. Furthermore, having 5 nanograms or more of marijuana in your system is not enough to automatically convict you of a DUID either; if you had a BAC of 0.08 or more, on the other hand, you would automatically be charged with drunk driving.
Studies show marijuana consumption affects spatial perceptions, meaning drugged drivers have slower reaction times and tend to swerve or tailgate other vehicles more often. Think about those classic stoner movie scenes where the dudes are absolutely fascinated by the size of their hands; would you want them driving you down I-25?
It shouldn’t. According to a Colorado bill, a person’s medical-marijuana status (i.e., a valid medical-marijuana registry ID) cannot be used as evidence of impairment or probable cause for a blood test.
As with alcohol, it is illegal to drive with an open container of marijuana; doing so will result in a traffic infraction that shows up on federal checks (as we explained earlier). The law applies to anything containing marijuana that is open or has a broken seal, or has partially-removed contents. We explored the issue in-depth here, but the best advice we can offer at this point is to keep it as far out of reach as possible. In fact, PUT IT IN THE TRUNK.
Okay, as with all rules, there are certain exceptions. If you drive an SUV or minivan, you may keep unsealed marijuana behind the last row of upright seats. Open marijuana is also allowed in the living quarters of trailers or motor homes.
No. People in the passenger area of a vehicle cannot use or consume marijuana, and the no open container law applies to them as well. While we’re at it, you also cannot smoke marijuana in a taxi or on public transportation. You may, however, smoke marijuana if you are in the rear of a privately-hired car (see: this CNN reporter).
Absolutely not–not even to Washington. Firstly, bear in mind that the TSA is a federal institution and that marijuana is banned at all airports, including DIA. You cannot fly with the drug, and actually, you cannot even leave marijuana in your car at the airport; that would count as illegal possession and be subject to a heavy fine. Secondly, our neighboring states are cracking down on those driving into their borders with weed purchased in Colorado. Wyoming, for example, won’t even recognize a Colorado-issued medical-marijuana card and will make arrests for illegal possession accordingly.
Thomas Law Firm will do our best to update our own website in a timely fashion, but we recommend checking out The Cannabist, Colorado NORML, and Marijuana Info Denver (only applies to the City of Denver, obviously) for extended coverage on this issue.
Criminal Practice Areas
Our Colorado lawyers aggressively defend your rights. Certain situations offer options such as evidence suppression, dismissal of the charges, or greatly reduced penalties, but only an experienced lawyer will be able to understand the circumstances surrounding your case fully. If you have prior charges or a felony on your record, it is especially important to contact a defense attorney promptly to seek advice and understand your case.
Driver’s License Revocations from DUI
A DUI arrest results in two separate legal proceedings against you: the criminal case and an administrative license revocation hearing through the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles. If your BAC is confirmed through chemical testing to be .08 or above, or if you refused to submit to a breath or blood test, you will be subject to a license revocation through a civil administration hearing.
Alcohol Related Driving Offenses
There are two different alcohol related offenses that can result from driving after you have consumed alcohol. Whether you are charged with one or the other depends on the amount of alcohol in your system. The charges are: “Driving While Ability Impaired” – DWAI and “Driving Under the Influence” – DUI.
The Colorado law firm, Thomas Law Firm, defends all types of DUIs, from drug related to alcohol impaired driving offenses. If you have been accused of driving under the influence for felony or misdemeanor charges, contact our DUI criminal defense lawyers at(720) 542-6148.
Injury Property Damage And Car Crash DUI
A car crash is a situation nobody wants to find themselves in, let alone be responsible for. In Denver, the penalties for these accidents include heightened insurance rates, fines, and, if alcohol was involved, legal repercussions including serious and potential felony DUI charges. When a drunk driver is involved in a car crash that leads to property damage or bodily injury, the penalties increase significantly.
DUI/DWAI for Commerical Drivers
Penalties for receiving a DUI are much harsher for commercial drivers and the consequences may reach far beyond losing your license and paying a fine. Commercial drivers are subject to stricter standards because their job requires them to operate vehicles that can contain toxic waste or precious cargo—it is a matter of public safety that these drivers be as safe as possible. Driving drunk while operating a company vehicle puts the company as well as the public-at-large at risk.
Recent changes to Colorado law have made it so it is now legal to possess and use marijuana. However, it is still a crime to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana or any other drug. A conviction for driving under the influence of drugs will lead to the same penalties as driving under the influence of alcohol.
When contacting our offices one of the first questions people will often ask our defense attorneys is “What is the chance of winning a case in Colorado?” Every case is unique and presents a different set of circumstances. For example, a case in Aurora would be defended differently from a case in Denver, or a case in Lakewood. However, the sooner you contact a lawyer, the greater your chances are of getting a favorable outcome. Our attorneys have the combined experience of handling thousands of cases throughout their careers.