DENVER, Colo. — Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill into law Thursday that increases the amount of cannabis adults can legally possess in Colorado from one ounce to two ounces. It also streamlines the record-sealing process for past cannabis possession convictions and expands record-sealing eligibility to include additional cannabis offenses. The new law takes effect immediately.
In 2012, voters approved Amendment 64, making possession of up to one ounce of cannabis legal for adults 21 and older under the state constitution. Possession of between one and two ounces of cannabis remained unlawful because a previously existing Colorado statute classified possession of up to two ounces as a petty offense.
HB21-1090, sponsored by Rep. Alex Valdez and Sen. Julie Gonazales, eliminates the offense for possession of up to two ounces of cannabis, thereby increasing the legal possession limit from one ounce to two ounces for adults 21 and older. It also preserves the illegal status of possessing any amount of cannabis for people under 21.
Bringing the legal possession limit into alignment with the historical classification for lowest-level possession offenses is also expected to reduce the administrative burden associated with sealing the records of past possession offenses.
Additionally, HB21-1090 adds cannabis possession to the list of offenses for which records of past convictions can be sealed without notification of the prosecuting district attorney. This will make the process less time-consuming and less expensive, increasing access to record-sealing for financially challenged individuals, who are also the most likely to have been convicted of possession offenses. The bill also extends eligibility for record-sealing to individuals convicted of a class 3 felony for marijuana cultivation.
VS Strategies played a leading role in the lobbying effort behind HB21-1090, and the bill was supported by a broad coalition of advocates, organizations, and businesses, including the ACLU of Colorado; Black, Brown and Red Badge Coalition; the Colorado Cannabis Manufacturer’s Association; Kind Colorado; Native Roots; and Terrapin Care Station.
Statement from VS Strategies partner Mason Tvert, a lead proponent of Amendment 64 and co-director of the 2012 initiative campaign:
“Amendment 64 was drafted at a time when no jurisdiction in the world had ever legalized cannabis for non-medical use. Many voters were still on the fence about whether to allow possession of one gram, let alone one or two ounces. We knew there would eventually be an appetite for increasing the possession limit, so Amendment 64 was deliberately crafted to allow for it. These reforms are just the latest sign that most Coloradans and their elected representatives are satisfied with the state’s decision to end prohibition and regulate cannabis for adult use. We applaud our state lawmakers and the governor for their continued leadership on cannabis policy.”
Statement from VS Strategies partner Jordan Wellington, who played a key role in drafting and lobbying for HB21-1090:
“Even though cannabis is now legal for adults in Colorado, the collateral consequences of past convictions continue to haunt a lot of people. This legislation removes some of the structural impediments to efficiently sealing the records of prior cannabis convictions. Making the process less time-consuming and less expensive will make it more accessible to the people most likely to have been impacted by cannabis prohibition laws. It also encourages more effective and efficient allocation of Colorado’s sparse judicial resources.”