Cultivating marijuana commercially in Colorado requires licensing and adherence to strict marijuana regulations. Amendment 64 mandates licensing for all persons or entities looking to start marijuana cultivation businesses in the state. In Colorado, a marijuana cultivation license authorizes the license holder to grow and harvest marijuana for the sole purpose of selling to marijuana products manufacturers and marijuana stores or dispensaries. However, it is illegal for Colorado marijuana cultivators to sell marijuana directly to consumers.
Colorado also permits homegrown marijuana cultivation for personal use without obtaining a license. However, the state limits the number of marijuana plants an individual or a household can cultivate per time. Adults 21 and older can grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes for personal use only, but those in the flowering stage must not be more than three. A residence can only grow a maximum of 12 marijuana plants regardless of the number of adults in such a household. Persons or entities cultivating marijuana for personal use or commercially in Colorado must grow the plants in enclosed, locked facilities to avoid unauthorized public access.
Typically, Colorado marijuana laws permit medical and recreational marijuana. Also, the state issues two types of cultivation licenses: medical marijuana cultivation licenses and retail (recreational) cultivation licenses. The Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) of the Colorado Department of Revenue (DOR) issues three classes of medical marijuana cultivation licenses depending on how many plants a prospective licensee intends to grow. These are:
Similarly, the MED considers the number of marijuana plants a prospective licensee intends to grow to allocate a tiered license to retail marijuana cultivators. There are currently five tiers of licensing for retail marijuana license in the state. These are:
In essence, medical marijuana cultivation facilities in Colorado serve the medical marijuana market while the retail cultivation facilities grow and harvest marijuana for the recreational market.
To grow marijuana in Colorado legally, either for personal use or commercially, a person must be 21 years or older. It is illegal for anyone or entity to cultivate marijuana on a commercial scale in the state without the requisite state-issued license. Also, persons who grow marijuana commercially in Colorado must have been residents of the state for a minimum of two years before applying for a marijuana cultivation license. Having substantial horticulture knowledge is an advantage for anyone who wants to grow marijuana. Colorado does not issue marijuana licenses to anyone who has had a felony conviction within the last five years before their application.
Only individuals who are 21 years and older and have driver's licenses can work on a marijuana farm in Colorado. They must also be Colorado residents with clean criminal records in the past five years. The state prohibits law enforcement officers and licensed physicians from working on a marijuana farm. Additionally, anyone who seeks to work in a marijuana establishment in Colorado must obtain an employee license from the Colorado Department of Revenue (DOR).
The Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) is solely responsible for marijuana business licenses in Colorado. The Division requires any person or entity interested in applying for a marijuana cultivation license to complete the MED-approved Regulated Business License Application Form. While filling out this form, an applicant should select either a retail marijuana cultivation facility or medical marijuana cultivation facility depending on the license type of their interest.
As part of the application process, a prospective marijuana cultivation licensee must determine the suitability of their application, complete the appropriate marijuana finding of suitability form and submit it alongside the Regulated Business Application Form. The MED provides two separate application forms for finding suitability. These are:
Any entity completing the owner entity application must include with their submission a natural person suitability application.
Applicants must have their fingerprints taken before submitting their marijuana cultivation license application and submit a copy of the receipt showing they have completed fingerprints with such applications. The MED provides fingerprinting service, but this is not always available. Applicants can visit any of the MED-approved third-party fingerprint vendors for this service.
Being a Regulated Marijuana Business, any person or entity applying for a marijuana cultivation license in Colorado must also obtain a state tax license suitable for the model of their proposed facility. They must also satisfy some state and federal labor and employment requirements provided by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. Applicants must ensure to obtain approvals from the local jurisdiction in which they intend to operate.
After paying the required application fees, applicants should enclose the proof of payment with completed application forms and supporting documentation and submit via mail or in-person to/at:
Marijuana Enforcement Division
1697 Cole Blvd., Suite 200
Lakewood, CO 80401
The Lakewood office of the MED receives marijuana license applications between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday for in-person submissions.
The MED also receives marijuana cultivation license applications online via its online application portal. New users are required to sign up to enable them to use the portal. The MED will either deny or approve a complete marijuana license application between 45 and 90 days after receiving the application. The MED will forward an approved application to the local jurisdiction where an applicant intends to cultivate marijuana.
The expenses borne by Colorado marijuana license applicants while trying to obtain a cultivation license vary depending on the type of marijuana cultivation facility they intend to operate. The marijuana industry in the state cultivates cannabis for both the medical and recreational markets.
Effective July 2021, the application fee for a medical marijuana cultivation license in Colorado for a Class 1 license is $1,000, while the licensure fee is $1,830, totaling $2,830 at application. These fees increase with the number of plants a prospective licensee intends to grow across Class 2 and Class 3 medical marijuana cultivation licenses. For a recreational marijuana cultivation license, a prospective licensee pays a $5,000 fee as an application fee for a Tier 1 license and a licensure fee of $1,830. These fees increase as the number of plants an applicant plans to cultivate increases between Tier 2 and Tier 5. Applicants must pay their total fees with separate checks as part of these fees goes to the state while the remainder is for the local jurisdiction of operation. For instance, for a Tier 1 recreational marijuana cultivation license, an applicant will raise a $4,330 check for the state while paying another $2,500 to the local jurisdiction.
The following is a list of license renewal costs for a medical marijuana cultivation license and recreational marijuana license in Colorado:
Licensees and new license applicants must pay these fees at the time of submitting their requests or applications. The MED accepts checks (which must be made payable to the Department of Revenue) as means of payment. Applicants or licensees can also pay the DOR via money orders or credit card authorization. The MED will not process an application whose fee has not been paid. However, the Division offers applicants who prefer to make payments online a Colorado Interactive Payment System. They do so by advising applicants of online payment link options by email once they receive their applications.
Yes. While marijuana cultivation license holders can engage only in the activity for which they are licensed (marijuana growing), they can also obtain licenses for other marijuana businesses. In Colorado, the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) encourages a marijuana business to hold multiple marijuana licenses across the cannabis supply chain in what is known as vertical integration. However, this is not mandatory.