HB 10-1284 and SB 10-109

Amendment 20 did not expressly authorize or regulate the commercial distribution of medical cannabis. In the early 2000s, some caregivers began providing cannabis to large numbers of patients through delivery services or discreet retail locations. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment at the urging of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration created an informal rule barring caregivers from providing medical cannabis to more than five patients. Sensible Colorado successful sued the state to overturn that policy in 2007, establishing the legal basis for dispensaries in Colorado. In 2009, the Health Department tried again to limit the commercial distribution of medical cannabis, this time through a formal rule-making process with the Board of Health, but after hearing from hundreds of patients and advocates, the Board rejected the five patient limit some officials had sought. In June of 2010, the Colorado Legislature enacted the Colorado Medical Marijuana Code—the most comprehensive system of medical cannabis distribution and regulation in the world—through the passage of SB 10-109 and HB 10-1284; further updates to the code were enacted in July 2011. These bills not only license commercial businesses for the distribution and production of medical cannabis, but also impose new restrictions on patients, caregivers, and doctors.

Senate Bill 109 regulates doctors who certify medical marijuana for their patients. House Bill 10-1284 regulates and licenses: (1) Medical Marijuana Centers (Dispensaries); (2) Medical Marijuana Optional Premise Cultivation Facilities; and (3) Infused Products Manufacturers (e.g. edibles, tinctures, lotions, oils). Pursuant to HB 10-1284, counties and cities may adopt their own rules and licensing procedures for medical marijuana centers or ban these businesses altogether. Given this new statutory option for local bans, access to Medical Marijuana Centers will depend in large part on local politics and grassroots organizing. Regardless of a local ban on a Medical Marijuana Center, no local government has the authority to ban caregivers or patients.2

SB 10-109 and HB 10-1284 required both the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the Department of Revenue (DOR) to create regulations to implement the law, which went into effect in 2011. 

Below is a summary of the restrictions in the Colorado Medical Marijuana Code.


Patients cannot use medical cannabis:

             In a Medical Marijuana Center or other licensed facility;

                         In a way that endangers the health and well-being of a person;

                         In plain view or place open to the public;

                         In a correctional or community corrections facility; or

                         In a vehicle, aircraft, or boat.

Patients and caregivers cannot possess cannabis on the grounds of a school (pre-12) or on a school bus.

Patients and caregivers must have their paperwork with them while in possession of medical cannabis.

Patients can only have one caregiver at a time.

Patients may only receive recommendations from a doctor who has both an "unrestricted" Colorado license and a valid DEA registration.


Caregivers are limited to five (5) patients, except in exceptional circumstances.3

Caregivers must register with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The state health agency will maintain a list of available caregivers who do not yet have five (5) patients.

Caregivers must maintain a list of the registry identification number for each of their patients.4

Caregivers must do something more than simply provide cannabis for their patients. 

Caregivers cannot "join together" to cultivate cannabis or "engage others to assist in providing medical cannabis to a patient."

A caregiver cannot also have a caregiver.

Caregivers cannot "cultivate or provide" cannabis to anyone who is not their patient.

Caregivers cannot charge patients more than the cost of purchasing or cultivating cannabis, but can charge for caregiver services.

Caregivers can only acquire cannabis at Medical Marijuana Centers if one of their patients is designated as homebound.

Law enforcement will be able to confirm caregiver status with an expanded 24-hour registry.


Doctors who provide written certification for medical cannabis must:

             Have a valid and unrestricted license to practice medicine in Colorado and a valid and unrestricted DEA registration;

             Complete a full assessment of the patient's medical history, provide an appropriate physical exam, and offer to provide follow up care; and

             Maintain records of all patients for whom they recommend medical cannabis.

Doctors who provide written certification for medical cannabis cannot:

             Receive any form of financial assistance from medical cannabis providers;

             Provide discounts to patients who agree to use certain caregivers or centers;

             Examine patients for the purpose of diagnosing a debilitating condition at a place where medical cannabis is distributed; or

             Hold an economic interest in a business that distributes medical cannabis.

The Clean up Legislation: HB 11-1043

The year after it passed HB10-1284, the Colorado legislature enacted HB11-1043  to resolve some regulatory inconsistencies. Notably, it requires caregivers to register their “caregiver grow” with the Colorado Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division.

HB11-1043 also provided some additional protections for patients and loosened some restrictions for employees of licensed businesses. The bill provides that patients who make less than 185% of the federal poverty level are exempt from paying the annual registry fee and from paying state sales tax on their purchases. HB11-1043 also protects patient medical records and prohibits law enforcement from profiling patients.