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Medical marijuana is legal in Colorado for qualifying patients, but that doesn't mean a registered medical marijuana patient can light up on any old street corner and avoid prosecution. Certain laws still apply to the use of medical marijuana by legally registered patients. In addition, Board of Health regulations specify where medicinal marijuana may be used. Also, in some cases, a lack of regulation restricts use more than might the existence of laws or regulations.

When and Where You Can Legally Use Medical Marijuana

If you hold a state medical marijuana registry card, you may use medical marijuana and possess the paraphernalia required for medical use. However, you may not use medical marijuana if:

  • Your medical marijuana use endangers the health or well-being of another person
  • You are in plain view of the general public
  • You are in a place open to the general public
  • You are driving a motor vehicle

In these situations, you may be arrested and prosecuted despite your possession of a medical marijuana license. Since marijuana is still a Schedule I drug, your safest choice is to use medical marijuana in the privacy of your own home and with no other people (aside from perhaps your medical marijuana caregiver) present.

Medical Marijuana Patients Face Legal Discrimination

While the Americans with Disabilities act protects people with most chronic, debilitating conditions from discrimination due to their diagnosis, you are not protected by state or federal law from persecution based on your choice to treat your condition with medical marijuana. In fact, the Colorado medical marijuana law specifically states that employers are not required to accomodate the use of medical marijuana in the workplace.

In addition, there exists no Colorado law exempting medical marijuana patients from employment-related drug testing, nor are medical marijuana patients protected from being fired for their use of medical marijuana. The law does not either specifically permit or prohibit the firing of an employee for using medical marijuana.

Similarly, Colorado law does not address whether or not a medical marijuana patient can be evicted for using medical marijuana. Medical marijuana users who rent a home may be in violation of a leasing agreement prohibiting use or possession of illegal drugs on the rental property, even if the patient can legally use and possess medical marijuana in Colorado. Patients must decide independently whether or not to inform their landlords of their use of medical marijuana.

It is recommended that patients unsure of their legal rights consult an attorney.

Protection for Medical Marijuana Users

Some protections do exist for medical marijuana users, their physicians, and their caregivers. Physicians are protected against any sort of punishment for discussing medical marijuana use with patients, or for giving a written recommendation enabling a patient to join the Colorado medical marijuana registry.

Patients with Colorado medical marijuana registry cards are not completely exempt from prosecution, but can successfully use their enrollment in the medical marijuana registry as a criminal defense. If a patient's medical marijuana plants are confiscated, law enforcement officials must keep them alive until they are either returned to the patient or ordered destroyed by a court of law.

Colorado medical marijuana caregivers enjoy the same protections as Colorado medical marijuana patients, so long as they possess medical marijuana only for use by a registered medical marijuana patient.