Regulation of Medical Marijuana
In 2000, Colorado voters approved Amendment 20 which legalized the use of marijuana for
certain medical conditions. The Department of Public Health and Environment administers the medical
Since voters approved Amendment 20 in 2000, the number of people in the state who are
legally allowed to purchase marijuana has steadily increased. According to Department of Public
Health and Environment, in 2007, 1,955 people had medical marijuana registration cards; in 2008,
there were 4,720 on the department’s medical marijuana registry. Currently, there are about 13,000
people on the registry. According to the department, on an average day, there are about 400 requests
submitted for medical marijuana cards, and some days applications are as high as 600. In addition,
the relatively recent growth in the establishment of medical marijuana storefronts, called dispensaries,
has increased public interest in the medical marijuana program.
During the 2010 legislative session, the General Assembly considered legislation related to
the regulation of the medical marijuana program, doctors who certify that patients may participate in
the program, and dispensaries.
Senate Bill 10-109 regulates the role of physicians in certifying that an individual may
benefit from medical marijuana as follows:
• a physician and a patient must have a “bona fide” relationship before a physician may
certify that a patient would benefit from medical marijuana;
• the physician must be available or offer to provide follow-up care and treatment to the
patient after he or she begins using medical marijuana;
• the physician must maintain a record-keeping system for all patients certified by the
• the physician may not offer a discount to a patient who uses a particular dispensary or
caregiver or diagnose a patient for a debilitating medical condition at a place where
medical marijuana is sold or distributed;
• the physician may not accept payment from any provider of medical marijuana or hold
an economic interest in any marijuana dispensary; and
• the physician must hold a doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathic medicine from an
accredited medical school, have a valid, unrestricted license to practice medicine, and a
valid, unrestricted U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration controlled substances
The bill requires the Department of Public Health and Environment to:
• develop a form to meet the requirement of what constitutes “written documentation” that
a patient may be certified for the use of medical marijuana;
• issue registry identification cards to patients and primary caregivers;
• ensure that an individual receives a registry card only if he or she has a bona fide
relationship with a physician;
• develop procedures that allow patients to have the registry fee waived if they are
• develop procedures for enforcement, including the process for referring a physician to
the Board of Medical Examiners for investigation.
An individual convicted of a criminal offense must renew his or her card immediately and have a
recommendation from a physician who has a bona fide relationship with the individual. The costs of
implementing the new regulations and maintaining the program are to be paid from the Medical
Marijuana Program Cash Fund, which is funded with the fees individuals pay to receive a registry card.
The General Assembly adopted an additional bill related to the medical marijuana program.
House Bill 10-1284 creates a state and local licensing program for medical marijuana dispensaries,
medical marijuana cultivators, and producers of edible marijuana products. It also regulates the role
of caregivers for individuals who participate in the medical marijuana program.
Medical marijuana licensing authority. The bill creates the state medical marijuana
licensing authority within the enforcement division of the Department of Revenue as well as local
licensing authorities throughout the state. In order to operate a dispensary, the owner must obtain a
license from the state Department of Revenue as well as a local licensing authority. In addition, if an
operator plans to grow marijuana off-site, he or she must obtain a separate premises cultivation license.
If the operator plans to produce edible marijuana products, he or she must obtain an infused product
Prior to July 1, 2011, a local government can adopt a resolution or ordinance licensing,
regulating, or prohibiting the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana within the government’s
jurisdiction. The local licensing authority may restrict the number and location of dispensaries and
premises cultivation licenses issued in the locality; however, if a locality does not adopt ordinances
concerning dispensaries, the state law will apply. The applicant must provide required information
concerning the specifications for the building in which a dispensary will be housed and information
on employees. Owners, officers, and employees of the dispensary must undergo a criminal background
check. The local licensing authority may hold a public hearing prior to approving any license. After
receiving a local license, the owner of a dispensary or a premises cultivator must apply for a state
The bill restricts where dispensaries may be located, sets the hours during which dispensaries
may operate, and limits the amount of marijuana that a dispensary may have at any given time. The
bill requires that dispensaries grow at least 70 percent of the marijuana sold. In order to obtain a state
license, the owner of the dispensary must pay a $5,000 bond. The state licensing authority is
authorized to adopt rules, forms, and applications. Rules may include the following:
• enforcement of the medical marijuana code;
• instructions for local licensing authorities and law enforcement officers;
• inspections and investigations of medical marijuana facilities;
• penalties associated with violations;
• development of identification cards for employees; and
• security requirements for medical marijuana centers.
The bill specifies that certain individuals are prohibited from operating a medical marijuana
dispensary, including physicians, individuals under 21 years of age, and members of law enforcement.
Licenses are issued for up to two years. Owners are required to keep records on all transactions for
three years and provide them to the state licensing authority upon request for inspection. Dispensaries,
cultivators, manufacturers, and employees are required to pay a fee which is set to cover the costs for
operating the state and local licensing authorities.
Both the local and the state licensing authorities have the authority to suspend and revoke
licenses and issue fines for violations of the medical marijuana code. The bill also specifies violations
of the medical marijuana code, such as smoking medical marijuana at a dispensary or possessing more
than six plants and two ounces of marijuana for each patient who is registered with the dispensary.
Violations of the code are a class 2 misdemeanor.
The bill specifies that the first $2 million collected in sales and use taxes from medical
marijuana is to be appropriated to the Department of Human Services and the Department of Health
Care Policy and Financing for substance abuse programs.
Regulation of caregivers. Amendment 20 allows individuals to serve as caregivers to
individuals who are authorized to use medical marijuana. House Bill 10-1284 amends the statute
concerning the medical marijuana program to regulate the role of caregivers as follows:
• a caregiver is required to register with the Department of Public Health and Environment
for each patient for whom he or she is a caregiver with a limit of five patients at any time,
except in exceptional circumstances;
• a patient may only have one caregiver at any time;
• the department must create a confidential registry of caregivers and, with the caregiver’s
permission, provide the caregiver’s information to a patient or physician seeking a
• an individual who is not currently a caregiver can submit his or her information to the
registry to be considered to be a caregiver for a patient who does not have one; and
• patients and caregivers are required to have their registry cards in their possession at any
time that they possess medical marijuana.
The General Assembly considered a concurrent resolution related to medical marijuana which
did not pass. Senate Concurrent Resolution 10-005 would have clarified that caregivers of patients
who are participating in the medical marijuana program must provide assistance to the patient that is
greater than providing medical marijuana. The resolution would have outlawed the operation of
medical marijuana dispensaries.