Colorado legalized marijuana in 2013 by constitutional amendment.
Colorado regulates activities within the state, such as manufacturing marijuana products, distributor licensing, and transportation regulations.
What happens when you leave Colorado with marijuana? Is the marijuana you legally obtained in Colorado still legal when you cross state lines?
Ultimately, driving weed out of Colorado is illegal under federal law. You may also violate state laws if the state does not allow you to bring marijuana into the state.
Driving out of Colorado with edibles, for example, is prohibited under federal law, and driving into another state, like Nebraska, violates state law.
Colorado citizens do not take the protection of Colorado marijuana laws with them when they leave the state.
You may want to look into your destination state’s laws regarding marijuana to better understand your rights when you arrive.
A review of state laws regulating marijuana is available through the Marijuana Policy Project.
Federal Commerce Clause
The law governing traveling with marijuana between states is more a matter of Constitutional law than of Colorado law.
Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the authority to regulate interstate commerce.
Channels and Instrumentalities of Commerce
Congress has the sole power to regulate:
- Channels of interstate commerce. Channels are things like roads and airways that allow traffic to flow between states.
- Instrumentalities of interstate commerce. Instrumentalities include people, machines, and terminals (i.e., cars) that facilitate the movement between states.
Federal Enforcement of Criminal and Civil Laws
Congress may regulate the movement of substances across state lines without criminalizing the movement. For example, the federal government regulates the transportation of alcohol across states.
Congress may also enact criminal laws that prohibit conduct or activities in connection with interstate movement. Such laws already exist regarding the possession and transportation of marijuana under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA).
These laws apply regardless of whether the state law prohibits the conduct.
Penalties for Possession of Marijuana Under Federal Law
Enforcement of the CSA today is more often pursued where the individual possesses an intent to sell the substance.
However, the CSA still contains a provision that prohibits even “simple possession” – which is knowing or intentional possession of a controlled substance.
The CSA provides that a person “who knowingly possesses [marijuana] in an amount that… is a personal use amount shall be liable to the United States for a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed $10,000 for each violation.”
Therefore, driving weed out of Colorado (i.e., traveling interstate) puts your person and your vehicle squarely under Congressional authority.
This means you could be subject to Congress’ possession penalties under CSA, including a fine of up to $10,000 per violation.
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