growing weed in colorado laws

Growing your own marijuana in Colorado: Legal doesn’t mean simple

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Grow from seed or from cuttings? The advantage to growing marijuana plants from seed is that you’ll know that they’re not infested with common indoor-gardeing pests. The downside: Plants will have to grow for about a month before you can tell whether they’re male or female. Only female plants produce flowers.

On Jan. 1, 2014, licensed marijuana dealers will also be able to sell plants or seeds for cannabis. But those wanting to grow their own are likely to have to seek out cultivation advice from hydroponics stores, because some regular garden centers are shying away from the subject.

These marijuana seeds will grow into plants that are male or female. A lighting trick – switching lights to yellow ones that daily cycle on for 12 hours, off for 12, tells female plants that it’s autumn and time to flower.

LAFAYETTE, CO – DECEMBER 16 : Ben Holmes at his Centennial Seeds where he is licensed to cultivate marijuana seeds for Colorado growers on Monday, December 16, 2013. He was holding a collection of 8,000 heirloom Nepalese Highland Sativa seeds.

Once you’ve exhausted the jokes about green thumbs, red eyes, and the hilarity of growing weed instead of blooms, the questions remain about how to go about growing your own marijuana, if you want to.

Amendment 64 allows home cultivation of marijuana, up to six plants per adult. (Denver’s rules allow a household of two or more adults to cultivate a total of a dozen cannabis plants.) That’s going to appeal to those partakers who are old enough to be leery about openly buying a substance that still remains, on the federal level, strictly illegal.

And it’s going to appeal to many who live in a Colorado town or county that doesn’t allow retail stores — and there are quite a few of those, especially on the Eastern Plains. Even within the county of Denver, the retail marijuana scene is a confusing patchwork: Legal in Glendale, but not in Englewood; legal in Denver but not yet in Edgewater.

Even in jurisdictions that don’t allow retail marijuana shops, it’s legal to grow your own on your own property, within the specifications of Amendment 64.

But for home growers, there’s been the problem of where to acquire seeds or cuttings. Unless they received it as a gift, they couldn’t obtain cannabis plant material without risking a step on the wrong side of the law. That changes on Jan. 1 when retail marijuana shops will open and can legally sell plants and seed.

Still, it’s not like home growers can call a Colorado State University extension agent for growing advice; those experts are prohibited from answering any questions related to marijuana. Even though Amendment 64 specifically allows advice on growing marijuana, greenhouse and nursery staff often shy away from the subject.

“It’s crazy,” said Sharon Harris, executive director of the Colorado Nursery and Greenhouse Association.

“We started getting those calls when the bill first passed for medical marijuana, and our attorney advised us not to talk about it. It’s legal in Colorado, but still a federal offense. We’re waiting to see how the legal retail sales work out, but our position will not change until the U.S. attorney general says, ‘OK, here’s the deal.’ It’s quite a quagmire.”

So don’t expect help from the usual horticultural resources. Instead, look at hydroponic indoor gardening retail outlets, and start-ups like Cannabis University, which offers a $250 one-day class in possessing and growing marijuana.

Be advised: Under the law, growing your own marijuana requires keeping your plants in an “enclosed, locked space” that is not open or public. That’s pretty broadly-written, but a safe interpretation would mean a basement room or closet that can be locked.

No more than three of your plants can be in the flowering stage at one time. And it remains illegal to sell marijuana you grow.

To answer basic questions for novice pot-growers (potters?), we interviewed George Archambault, owner of MileHydro, Ben Holmes of Centennial Seeds, and Michelle LaMay of Cannabis University.

Q: What will I need to start growing weed?

Holmes: The basics are one container per plant; potting soil; fertilizer; a good-quality grow light; and seeds.

Archambault: Ideally, you’ll have a controlled environment, with fresh air coming in through a ventilation system and exhaust air going out the opposite end of the room, because plants don’t do well in stagnant air. If you use a controlled environment like a tent or cabinet, you’ll want a thermostat to make sure the room stays at the same temperature instead of getting too hot.

LaMay: A grow light with a vegging bulb and flowering bulb, a controlled environment, like a room or a tent; nutrient supplements; an outside air source; a carbon filter; a thermometer; an oscillating fan to move the air about; a can fan to pull air out through the carbon filter; timers; a PH tester for the water; a five-gallon water container; pots; growing medium; tarps for the floor, even with a grow tent; and only highest-quality extension cords, if you must use extension cords at all.

Q: So what’ll that cost?

Holmes: For a very basic set-up, around $500. Figure $20 for the containers, $40 or so for the soil, another $40 for the fertilizer and nutrients, $300 for a decent grow light, another $100 for a vegging bulb and a flowering bulb. Figure on spending $5 to $10 per seed, but prices vary widely. Some seeds cost $1,000 apiece.

Archambault: Five hundred is cutting a lot of corners. I’d say more like $1,000.

Q: Does it make more sense to try to grow hydroponically?

Archambault: I don’t advise new growers to start right in with hydroponics. That means spending at least $1,000 on equipment, and that’s a lot for a beginner. And you’re out all that money if you’re not successful.

Q: How much space would a $500 dirt set-up require?

Holmes: That’d be for a 4-by-4-foot area, so you’ll need only one grow light, plus one grow light with a white-blue vegging light bulb and an orange-red flowering light bulb.

Q: What’s a “vegging light bulb”?

Holmes: In indoor gardens, you mimic the spring and summer growing period with a light that’s on the white/blue spectrum. In the vegging state, you’re encouraging the plant to produce leaves, with a goal of growing the plant to half the size you want it to be when you harvest it. The rule of thumb is giving the plant 18 hours of light in the vegging [short for vegetative growth] stage. So if you want a 3-foot-tall plant at the harvest stage, you want to veg it until the plant is a foot and a half tall.

Q: Then what?

Holmes: When it reaches half the size you want it to be, then you have to trick it into flowering by making the plant think it’s fall. The flower is what people want from a marijuana plant, because you harvest the flower buds. So then you switch to the orange-red light bulb. That makes the plant think it’s fall, and it will induce flowering. During the flowering stage, you’ll want to give it 12 hours of light on, and rest it in the dark for 12 hours.

Q: That sounds like a ton of work. Is it easier to start with cuttings?

LaMay: Cuttings are easily accessible from friends or the medical marijuana dispensary or, soon, the retail store. They are about $10 each. They must be quarantined and doused aggressively with organic neem oil over 20 days.

Archambault: Start from seeds. I’ve never met anyone who bought a clone from a dispensary that wasn’t infested with spider mites or powdery mildew. It’s an indoor growing issue. The worst thing you can do is buy a plant that has a lot of insects.

Holmes: No! Start with seeds. We urge people not to buy cuttings, and my dispensary clients will hate me for saying that, but the worst thing you can do is buy their cuttings because they’re infested.

Q: Where can I buy seeds?

Archambault: After Jan.1, 2014, you can buy cannabis seeds in Colorado without a medical marijuana card. Seeds, and cuttings, will be sold at state-licensed marijuana retail stores. But remember, you can’t tell whether a seed is male or female. You have to wait until it germinates. It takes about a month to see the telltale signs of the first budding flowers. The males only grow leaves.

Q: Why does it matter whether the seed is male or female?

Holmes: Only the female seeds produce flowers, which is the crop you want. Some companies sell what they call “feminized seeds” that have a higher probability of being female. But regularly-bred seeds is what we recommend.

Q: Is growing marijuana comparable to starting tomatoes or other garden plants?

Holmes: Yes, it’s like growing a tomato. Marijuana is a plant that’s very sensitive to over-feeding. You need to lime the soil, because they don’t like acid soil. And I just use Miracle-Gro. I use that on everything. If you ate my tomatoes or zucchini, or smoked my weed, you’d come back for more. You don’t need to buy a lot of supplements and amendments and products. You need a bucket of dirt and a well-thought-out fertilizer plan, not 20 different fertilizers and nutrients. The best thing is to keep it simple.

Q: I have relatives who live in states that haven’t legalized marijuana. Will they be able to tell I’m growing it?

Archambault: Well, the plants are still going to release that telltale aroma. Hydroponic stores sell odor mitigation systems. Carbon filters are the most effective. If your grow system is in a basement room that nobody uses, maybe they won’t notice.

Q: What about pets?

Holmes: Cats will be kind of curious. Pets are disease-carriers, and your pet could infect your plants. Make your grow room off-limits to your pets.

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Legal Guide to Colorado Marijuana Business Licensing

July 29, 2019 | Bill Henry

In this guide, you’ll learn about how to get a relevant Colorado Marijuana business license and how to keep it.

In Colorado there are three sections of cannabis law. Medical marijuana is the first, retail the second, and industrial hemp the third.

Before you can get into a business in one of these areas, you must meet the requirements to apply.

First, you’ll need to complete a Marijuana Business License Application through the Colorado State Licensing Authority.

There are several types of marijuana business licenses, and which one(s) you need will depend on the type of business you want to start.

Everyone involved in your proposed business must have clean criminal histories.

They must also not be employed by a local or state authority (such as a sheriff’s department). You must also be free of any convictions involving controlled substances within the last 10 years (although never is better) and be fully discharged of any other felony convictions for at least five years. The state licensing authority will perform background checks on everyone, so it’s best to sort this out before beginning the application process.

You must also be at least 21 years old and a Colorado resident for at least two years.

The same goes for financial partners and employees.

If you’re in the Denver metro area, the city has a complete set of documents and requirements located here.

Applications and Fees

The first step to getting a marijuana business license is completing relevant applications. Which ones you need will depend on what type of marijuana business you intend to open.

Once all applications have been filled out and all necessary fees are paid, you will need an appointment with the Marijuana Enforcement Division. You’ll need to bring copies of all documentation, every part-owner of the potential business, and personal identification (such as a drivers’ license or passport) for all parties under the application.

Once approved, owners will be fingerprinted and will then pay the state application/licensing fee along with the Local Authority Application fee.

Retail Marijuana

These are the classes of Retail Marijuana Business Licenses, directly from

  • Retail Marijuana Store: license type necessary to operate a business that sells Retail Marijuana to an individual twenty-one years of age or older as described in section 44-12-402 C.R.S.
  • Retail Marijuana Cultivation: license type necessary in order to operate a facility to grow and harvest Retail Marijuana plants as described in section 44-12-403 C.R.S.
  • Retail Marijuana Product Manufacturer: license type necessary in order to operate a facility that manufactures retail marijuana-infused products such as edibles, concentrates or tinctures as described in section 44-12-404 C.R.S.
  • Retail Marijuana Testing Facility: license type necessary in order to operate a facility that conducts potency and contaminants testing for other MED Licensed Retail Marijuana businesses as described in section 44-12-405 C.R.S.
  • Retail Marijuana Transporter: license type necessary in order to provide transportation and temporary storage services to Retail Marijuana Businesses as described in section 44-12-406 C.R.S.
  • Retail Marijuana Operator: license type necessary to provide professional operational services to one or more Retail Marijuana Businesses as described in section 44-12-407 C.R.S.

Once you’ve completed your materials, you’ll send them here:

MED Lakewood Office at 1701 Cole Blvd., Suite 300, Lakewood Colorado, 80401

Hours: 8:00 – 11:00 AM and 1:00 – 4:00 PM, Monday – Friday.

Costs at a Glance
  • New application fee: $4,000
  • New application for converting medical cultivation facility to adult-use: $1,750
  • Annual renewal fee (1,801 to 3,600 plants): $1,100
  • Annual renewal fee (3,601 to 6,000 plants): $1,800
  • Annual renewal fee (6,001 to 10,200 plants): $3,300
  • Annual renewal fee (10,201 to 13,800 plants): $5,300
State fees:
  • Retail Marijuana Cultivation (same as “new application fee” above): $4,000
  • Retail Marijuana Transporter: $4,900
  • Retail Marijuana Operator: $2,700
  • Affiliated Interest: $200
  • Commercially Reasonable Royalty Interest Holder with more than 30% stake: $400
  • Commercially Reasonable Royalty Interest Holder w stake less or equal to 30%: $200
  • Permitted Economic Interest $400 Profit Sharing Plan Employee $200
  • Qualified Limited Passive Investor – Limited Initial Background Check $75
  • Qualified Limited Passive Investor – Full background for reasonable cause $125
  • Qualified Institutional Investor $200
  • All fees must be paid by check or money order.

Local fees will also apply depending on the county/city you plan to operate in. Localities that allow marijuana sales (Excel document). You need a local license as well as a state-level license to operate, so keep in mind that you will need to pursue the relevant local credentials before operating in that area.

Medical Marijuana

These are the classes of medical marijuana businesses, taken directly from

  • Medical Marijuana Center: license type necessary to operate a business that sells Medical Marijuana to Colorado Medical Marijuana Registry Patients and Transporting Caregivers. Owners of this type of facility must also own and operate at least one Medical Marijuana Cultivation and produce a minimum of 70% of all on-hand inventory as described in section 44-11-402 C.R.S.
  • Medical Marijuana Optional Premises Cultivation: license type necessary operate a cultivation business to grow and harvest Medical Marijuana. There are no Independent Medical Marijuana Optional Premises Cultivation (OPC) Licenses – these facilities must be affiliated with either a Medical Marijuana Center or Infused Product Manufacturer facility as described in section 44-11-403 C.R.S.
  • Medical Marijuana Infused Product Manufacturer: license type necessary to operate a business that produces Medical Marijuana Infused Products such as edibles, concentrates or tinctures. These licensees are only authorized to wholesale their products to MED licensed Medical Marijuana Centers as described in section 44-11-404 C.R.S
  • Medical Marijuana Testing Facility: license type necessary operate a facility that conducts potency and contaminants testing and research for MED Medical Marijuana business licensees as described in section 44-11-405 C.R.S.
  • Medical Marijuana Transporter: license necessary in order to provide transportation and temporary storage services to MED Licensed Medical Marijuana Businesses as described in section 44-11-406 C.R.S.
  • Medical Marijuana Operator: license type necessary in order to provide professional operational services to one or more MED Licensed Medical Marijuana Businesses as described in section 44-11-407 C.R.S.
  • Medical Marijuana Research and Development Facility or Cultivation: license necessary in order to grow, cultivate possess and transfer marijuana for use in research only as described in section 44-11-408 C.R.S.

The Medical Marijuana Business License Application form is used to apply for all of the above license types – you will need to fill out an application form for each license you want to get.

Industrial Hemp

You can register for an Industrial Hemp license using this form.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture, not the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) is the government division that registers and inspects industrial hemp cultivation, meaning there is a different set of rules to abide by. However, recent legislation passed that was designed to make the cultivation and harvest of industrial hemp easier.

Amendment 64, s.16 to the Colorado Constitution defines industrial hemp as “a plant of the genus Cannabis and any part of the plant, whether growing or not, containing a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of no more than three-tenths of one percent (0.3%) on a dry weight basis.” Any cannabis plant with THC over 0.3% is considered to be marijuana and not “industrial hemp.” Keep in mind that this is simply a regulatory distinction and is NOT a botanic one.

Industrial Hemp Tips:
  • If you’re interested in industrial hemp, you are probably aware that its cultivation is intensely agricultural, and a profitable grow operation will be larger, in comparison, to that of cannabis meant for medical or recreational consumption.
  • THC levels of Cannabis seeds naturally vary, so sourcing reliable seeds is extremely important to the legality of an industrial hemp operation. Hemp grow operations are randomly sampled by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, and if plants are found with THC levels higher than 0.3%, then you may face fines or a revocation of your growing license.
  • There are no pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, or fungicides currently allowed for use on cannabis, including industrial hemp. These chemicals are regulated on the federal level, and because cannabis cultivation remains federally restricted, you cannot currently obtain permission to use them in an industrial hemp growing operation. Keep this in mind when planning the location and method of cultivation.
  • Federal farm programs (like crop insurance, farm loans, etc.) are managed by the USDA, which is a federal agency. We highly recommend getting legal advice in this territory, as the possibility of participating in these programs could be jeopardized by the cultivation of hemp.
  • Banks are still averse to servicing marijuana cultivators, and this includes industrial hemp growers. A business attorney can help you navigate this obstacle.
  • Finally, you might be surprised by how often a grow operation gets very far in the registration process, only for the owners to realize that the area they planned for the grow was not zoned for that type of activity. Regulations on zoning and hemp cultivation are highly localized (by county) in Colorado, so make sure you know the rules in the area you plan to grow before getting started.

Quick Links:

Tips for a Successful Application

Colorado’s state licensing authority is meticulous about the quality of cannabis-based businesses they want to see in Colorado, to put it mildly. Your application must reflect that your business has been well thought out, planned, and that you have the resources and know-how necessary to run it legally and effectively. Lacking important traits will get your application a flat rejection from the Marijuana Enforcement Division.

The following factors will increase your odds of an accepted application:

Team: “Lone Wolves” are not taken seriously in this business. Any successful operation has a well-rounded team of financial experts, horticulturalists, and business managers who understand how to manage their facilities and employees. You need to demonstrate that your team knows how and is motivated to stay compliant with state regulations.

Local Relevance: Your proposed business needs to be welcome in the jurisdiction you are applying for. Just because it’s legal there doesn’t mean that locals will buy marijuana from you (if you’re opening a retail establishment) or that the locality isn’t already saturated by other cannabis businesses.

Finances: The Colorado marijuana industry is famously lucrative, but the price of admission is high. Having sufficient investments and a solid financial plan are essential to even getting started. Having a dedicated financial team, while not a requirement, is definitely good for the state licensure’s opinion of your potential business. As for starting capital, not counting overhead costs of starting operations, a generally good starting liquid budget (financial cushion, in other words) should be around $250,000. The reason for this is the state does not want to allow financially risky or struggling marijuana businesses to enter a market where they might be tempted to sell products illegally to make higher profits.

Know the Regulations: Demonstrating to the MED that you understand and are up-to-date on the most recent marijuana business laws in Colorado will go a long way to getting your application accepted. Have a Colorado lawyer on retainer whom you can consult before making any decision. State laws and local ordinances change often, and in such a new industry, changes to the law should be expected and accounted for. Be legally prepared for whatever comes—get a lawyer.

Real Estate: Wherever your business will be located, make sure you are prepared for the practical requirements of that location. For example, if you are planning a grow operation with hundreds of plants, make sure you have developed a floor plan for the operation of the indoor grow that is based on real floor plans and accounts for the day-to-day operational requirements that will be needed.

Risky Legal Territory

No matter how well-prepared to break into the Colorado cannabis industry you may find yourself, legal marijuana is still a highly contentious and questionable legal area as of this writing. There are many legal pitfalls and there are even roadblocks built into the system that intentionally make the process of becoming a legitimate marijuana business difficult, and thus, you should NOT proceed without legal counsel.

A Colorado marijuana business lawyer from Robinson & Henry, P.C. can answer your questions and walk you through each step of the process to license and legitimize your marijuana enterprise. A business attorney will also help you stay informed and compliant on new regulations or laws which appear in the years to come, and help you and your company maintain a good relationship with the state licensing authority—maximizing your chances of staying in the business long-term. Proceeding without legal advice is not only ill-advised, but will be looked down upon by the Marijuana Enforcement Division as a source of unpreparedness.

Maximize your chances of a successful application, stay compliant, and see road bumps before they happen with an experienced, capable business lawyer from Robinson & Henry.

Call (303) 688-0944 today for a free legal consultation on how to get your business started.

Licensing your new marijuana business in Colorado is no walk in the park. Get more than just a lawyer for legal advice—get a whole team of legal experts who can answer your every question about opening your Colorado marijuana business. Read Robinson & Henry, P.C.'s legal guide to learn more. ]]>