Consequences of Getting a Medical Card in Colorado

  1. Colorado Cannabis
  2. Colorado Medical Marijuana Card
  3. Consequences of Having a MMJ Card in Colorado

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Benefits of Having a Medical Marijuana Card in Colorado

A Colorado medical marijuana card offers cardholders various benefits ranging from increased legal protection to making access to marijuana possible for minors.

Legal Protection

Possessing a Colorado medical marijuana card provides several advantages, with legal protection being a key benefit for cardholders. Under the state’s medical marijuana laws, the Colorado medical marijuana card grants individuals the freedom to purchase and use cannabis within the permitted limits without the fear of legal consequences. Moreover, it serves as a safeguard against prosecution by law enforcement as long as the cannabis use adheres to the stipulations of the law. Therefore, Colorado medical marijuana cardholders are advised to always carry their cards with them whenever they are in possession of medical marijuana. Another ID, such as a Colorado driver’s license or a Colorado-issued identification card, may be required by law enforcement to verify the identity of the cardholder during a police stop.

Lower Prices

Colorado medical marijuana cardholders usually purchase medical marijuana and medical marijuana products at lower prices due to the exemption of MMJ patients from paying the 15% excise tax on cannabis in the state. Medical marijuana cardholders are also likely to be offered more regular discounts on marijuana purchases than non-cardholders. While medical marijuana products in Colorado are subject to a 2.9% sales tax, by taking advantage of excise tax exemptions and discounts provided by authorized dispensaries, Colorado medical marijuana cardholders can save money on their cannabis purchases.

Higher Purchase and/or Possession Limits

A Colorado medical marijuana card allows the cardholder to possess or purchase up to 2 ounces of marijuana. This is a higher limit when compared to non-cardholders. If you do not have a medical marijuana card, you can only purchase 1 ounce of marijuana.

Higher Cultivation Limits

Although specific marijuana cultivation law varies per city or county in Colorado, medical marijuana cardholders and non-cardholders can only grow up to 6 marijuana plants at home with no more than 3 of the cultivated plants in the mature stage. However, in certain conditions, where necessary, state law allows some patients to cultivate more plants as approved by their certifying physicians and the Colorado Department of Revenue. This privilege is only open to medical marijuana cardholders and not non-cardholders.

Access for Minors

A Colorado medical marijuana card allows individuals to access cannabis before they turn 21. Without a medical marijuana card, you must be 21 or older to use marijuana legally in Colorado. Individuals who are 18 or older can get a medical marijuana card for themselves, while caregivers can assist individuals younger than 18 in administering marijuana, provided both caregiver and patients are authorized under the Colorado medical marijuana program.

Reciprocity

A Colorado medical marijuana card, while not acceptable in all states, allows the cardholder to purchase medical marijuana in some states where medical marijuana reciprocity laws exist. States where you may use a Colorado medical marijuana card to purchase marijuana include Maine, New Mexico, Arkansas, Hawaii, Utah, Rhode Island, and Nevada.

Downsides of Getting a Medical Marijuana Card in Colorado

Possessing a Colorado medical marijuana card may entail drawbacks, including renewal inconveniences, potential employment restrictions, and implications for federal positions.

Firearm Prohibition

While Colorado has no specific law banning medical marijuana cardholders from owning firearms, federal law prohibits individuals who are unlawful users of controlled substances, including marijuana, from possessing firearms. The federal Gun Control Act of 1968 outlines these restrictions, and Form 4473, the background check form required for purchasing firearms from licensed dealers explicitly asks about marijuana use. This conflict between federal and state law arises because marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.

The federal government, through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), has maintained a stance that federal firearm licensees (FFLs) not sell firearms to medical marijuana users, even in jurisdictions where the drug has been legalized for medical use.

Consequently, if you have a Colorado medical marijuana card, purchasing or owning a gun in the state may put you in harm’s way with federal authorities.

Driving Restrictions

Colorado has specific regulations concerning driving under the influence of marijuana. The state's legal framework addresses impaired driving through a combination of per se limit and evaluation by law enforcement officers. Medical marijuana users in Colorado are not exempt from these regulations. While possessing a medical marijuana card grants certain legal protections, it does not provide immunity from impaired driving laws. The same DUI laws apply to marijuana DUI as they do to alcohol DUI or any combination of impairing substances. Penalties for marijuana DUI vary, and fines range from $200 to $1,500 and can even exceed a total financial cost of $13,500. Other consequences include jail time and loss of driver's license.

Colorado law sets a per se limit for the active psychoactive component of marijuana, Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in the blood. The permissible limit is 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of whole blood for non-commercial drivers. Exceeding this limit constitutes a violation, and individuals may face legal consequences.

Also, Colorado holds drivers with commercial driver's licenses (CDL) to stricter standards than regular drivers. Commercial driver licensees may lose their licenses if they test positive for marijuana use.

Annual Renewal

Possessing a medical marijuana card in Colorado comes with certain disadvantages, particularly in the context of renewing the card. The validity period of a Colorado medical cannabis card is no longer than one year. This means that cardholders must navigate the process of renewal annually, presenting both inconveniences and associated costs.

Renewing a medical marijuana card involves several steps, including scheduling consultations with recommending medical providers. Medical marijuana certifications for medical marijuana cards in Colorado are valid for no more than one year. Hence, cardholders must visit their medical certifying physician every time they plan to renew their Colorado medical marijuana card. These appointments are not only time-consuming but also contribute to the overall cost of maintaining a medical marijuana card. The average cost of these consultations varies, and it depends on individual healthcare providers. However, when visiting a certifying physician, MMJ patients can expect to pay between $100 and $30 for consultation.

The application cost of renewing the Colorado medical marijuana card is $29.50. However, a cardholder may qualify for a renewal application fee waiver if their household income is lower or equal to 185% of the Federal Poverty Level. In addition to the consultation fee, the total cost of renewing a Colorado medical marijuana card can accumulate, making the annual renewal process a financial consideration for cardholders.

Employment Restrictions

Despite marijuana's legalization in Colorado, the state allows employers to maintain the right to enforce workplace drug policies. Per state law, employers are not required to accommodate marijuana use in the workplace. Employers may refuse to hire applicants owing to their marijuana status. While medical marijuana status is unlikely to show up on a background test due to the protection of patient information under the HIPAA, patients who indicate that they use marijuana or possess medical marijuana cards run the risk of discrimination by the prospective employer.

Also, employers may fire employees who fail drug tests for marijuana use, even for off-duty use with a Colorado medical marijuana card. Although terminated employees may sue employers for invasion of privacy or claim that drug tests were conducted based on discrimination, state law allows Colorado employers to conduct random or scheduled drug tests.

As evidenced in the Coats v. Dish Network case, while the facts in the case revealed that the plaintiff never used marijuana on Dish Network's premises and was a medical marijuana cardholder, the court ruled in favor of Dish Network, claiming that Coats, who tested positive for marijuana, was in violation of the established Dish Network's drug policy.

While Colorado legislators introduced House Bill 1152 recently to allow marijuana use by medical marijuana cardholders outside of workplaces to have no negative professional consequences, the bill was ultimately rejected by a Colorado House Committee in March 2022.

Consequently, possessing a Colorado medical marijuana card puts your job at risk in the state.

Federal Prohibitions

The conflict between state and federal marijuana laws creates challenges for medical marijuana cardholders in Colorado seeking federal employment. Federal agencies typically adhere to federal law, which considers marijuana illegal. Consequently, individuals using marijuana, even for medical reasons, may face obstacles in obtaining certain federal positions.

Federal employees are generally subject to federal regulations, and obtaining a Colorado medical marijuana card does not provide protection against federal consequences. Federal employees using medical marijuana or holding a Colorado medical marijuana card risk disciplinary actions, including termination, as federal law considers cannabis a controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act.

Also, Individuals living in federally subsidized housing in Colorado may encounter challenges related to cultivating marijuana at home. Per Colorado law, if you live in federally subsidized housing, any marijuana possession or use charges may mean that you lose your federal housing privilege. Federal law governs federally subsidized housing policies, and since marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, residents in federally subsidized housing are subject to restrictions on cultivating cannabis plants, even for medical use.

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