Whether you use marijuana medicinally or recreationally in Colorado, you have important rights about marijuana use that you should know about.

Law enforcement officials and others may try to challenge you on these rights, or even pretend that they don’t exist.

Colorado marijuana laws currently cover the rights to possess, use and grow. But there are consistent cases brought to state court that attempt to overstep these rights.

In reaction to this issue, a recent ruling by the Colorado Court of Appeals set a new precedent for cases involving searching cars for drugs.

The ruling states that even if drug-sniffing dogs alert officers to the possible presence of marijuana or other drugs in a vehicle, law enforcement will need additional cause to search that car without permission.

This is largely because drug dogs can’t communicate the difference between sniffing out marijuana or sniffing out other drugs.

For example, in a 2015 case in Moffat County, a drug dog alerted an officer of the smell of marijuana or other illegal drugs present in the car. But since there was no way to know whether the dog smelled marijuana or another illegal substance, the search that ensued was deemed illegal by the judge.

Here’s what you need to know about the new Colorado Court of Appeals’ ruling and what it means for your marijuana rights when driving in Colorado.

Colorado Marijuana Laws and Other State Laws Reverse to Protect Rights

The Colorado Court of Appeals’ ruling helps protect the rights of legal marijuana use in Colorado.

The ruling prohibits the illegal search of your property if an officer or search dog smells pot, which is a legal substance in Colorado.

This ruling is catching on in other states where medicinal and recreational marijuana use is legal, too.

For instance, the Mississippi Supreme Court recently reversed a marijuana possession conviction, where the defendant was sentenced to 6 years in jail for possession of marijuana after his conviction in 2012.

The ruling stated that the passenger in the car didn’t knowingly possess the drug that had been hidden in the trunk of the rental car he was driving, which belonged to his half-brother.

The defendant had been arrested after a search of his vehicle due to the smell of marijuana. The justice in this case stated that being in proximity to marijuana does not prove possession.

Marijuana Laws in Colorado

Colorado marijuana laws can be hard to navigate without the help of a skilled attorney.

Below we’ve put together a simplified summary of what you need to know about your marijuana rights in Colorado under 4 different categories: possession, purchase limitations, marijuana consumption, and driving under the influence of marijuana.


  • The passing of Amendment 64 means adults over 21 years of age in Colorado can legally possess 1 ounce of marijuana.
  • The amendment is worded in a way that actually allows an adult to possess 1 ounce of THC.
  • This is an important distinction because it means that legal possession of 1 ounce of THC includes flowers, edibles, concentrates, topicals and other marijuana products — even seeds.
  • Adults who possess marijuana in Colorado must have a government-issued ID that proves their age.
  • You don’t need to be a legal resident of Colorado to possess marijuana in the state.

Purchase Limitations

  • Colorado residents and people visiting Colorado can purchase up to 28 grams of marijuana in a single transaction.
  • It’s not clear what constitutes “a single transaction” — consult with a skilled attorney if you have any questions about this stipulation.
  • Most recreational stores will only allow one purchase per day.

Marijuana Consumption

  • You might be wondering where you can smoke your medical or recreational weed — the laws are similar to open-container drinking laws in public in Colorado.
  • Amendment 64 doesn’t permit a person to consume marijuana openly in public areas.
  • You might want to light up your legal pot on the street, but you can get a ticket if you do.

Driving Under the Influence

  • The fact that you can legally consume pot doesn’t give you the freedom to drive while high.
  • Colorado has set a limit of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in your system.
  • Many people metabolize marijuana differently, so there’s no saying if one puff or bite of an edible will put you over the legal limit to drive.
  • There are also marijuana transport laws (open containers in vehicles), marijuana exporting laws (bringing Colorado bud back to your home state).

If you want to possess and to partake in marijuana use in Colorado, it’s your responsibility to know the laws and adhere to them.

However, knowing your rights can help you protect yourself from unlawful car searches or other violations of your marijuana rights in Colorado.

If you need help interpreting a legal situation involving marijuana, contact Rogers & Moss for expert legal advice >