Can you use medical marijuana when you have a pending criminal charge?

Imagine Sarah, a Colorado resident who relies on marijuana to manage her chronic pain. Recently, she found herself entangled in the legal system and is now under pre-trial services awaiting her court date. Sarah is faced with a pressing question: Can she continue using marijuana to manage her symptoms, or does her new legal status change her access to the treatment she depends on?

This scenario is not uncommon in Colorado, a state known for its progressive stance on cannabis. However, the intersection of legal system regulations and medical marijuana use is complex, especially for those under pre-trial services. Let’s delve into what a medical marijuana card is, the distinctions between medical and recreational marijuana, and the current stance on medical marijuana use for individuals navigating pre-trial services in Colorado.

Understanding Medical Marijuana Cards

A medical marijuana card is an official state-issued identification card that permits a patient with a doctor’s recommendation to obtain, possess, or cultivate cannabis for medicinal use. This card provides legal protection under the state’s medical marijuana laws. Unlike recreational users, medical patients are often allowed higher possession limits and may have access to stronger strains or products, depending on the state’s regulations.

Medical vs. Recreational Marijuana: What’s the Difference?

The primary difference between medical and recreational marijuana lies in their intended use and the legal protections afforded to users. Medical marijuana is prescribed by a healthcare provider to treat specific health conditions or symptoms, such as chronic pain, epilepsy, or multiple sclerosis. Recreational marijuana, on the other hand, is used for personal enjoyment and does not need an approval from a medical professional.

In Colorado, both medical and recreational marijuana are legal, but they are regulated differently. Medical marijuana patients must be approved by a licensed physician and registered with the state’s medical marijuana program to receive their card. Recreational users, however, can purchase marijuana from licensed dispensaries without a card, provided they are over the age of 21.

Often, we hear from people who use recreational marijuana in order to treat medical symptoms. We’ve even heard medical professionals recommend the use of recreational marijuana. Unfortunately, this use does is not considered medical under Colorado law.

Medical Marijuana Use Under Pre-Trial Services in Colorado

While Colorado has legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use, federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance. This discrepancy creates a legal gray area, especially for individuals involved in the criminal justice system. So, it’s important to know that the information here only applies if you are charged with a Colorado state crime.

The legislature has specifically allowed people who are pre-trial to use medical marijuana. By law, if you have a medical marijuana ID card from the state of Colorado, the court is not allowed to restrict your use of the drug. Colorado Revised Statutes, 16-4-105(6)(c).

Of course, pre-trial bond conditions are not the same thing as sentencing. It’s called “pre-trial” because it happens before anyone is found “guilty” of a crime. The Colorado Supreme Court has decided that courts may prohibit someone from using medical marijuana while on probation if the prohibition is “necessary and appropriate” for specific sentencing goals.

Pre-Trial Services and UAs

Depending on your charges, you may be required to report to pre-trial services while your case is pending. If you ask the Pre-trial services officer, “Is medical marijuana allowed on pre trial,” they may give you a different answer than you expect. Even though the law requires someone with a medical marijuana card to be allowed to use the drug for treatment, make sure that your card is valid.

A common requirement for people under pre-trial supervision is having to undergo UAs, or urinalysis (a pee test). A medical marijuana card won’t get you out of this one. They will still test for common substances like alcohol, methamphetamines, and cocaine.


Navigating the complexities of pre-trial services in Colorado, especially regarding medical marijuana use, requires a nuanced understanding of both state and federal laws. For individuals like Sarah, who rely on medical marijuana for legitimate health reasons, the legal landscape may seem daunting. However, Colorado’s progressive stance on cannabis, coupled with specific legal provisions for pre-trial use, offers a beacon of hope.

It’s crucial for those under pre-trial services to be aware of their rights and the legal protections afforded to them, particularly the allowance for medical marijuana use as stipulated by Colorado Revised Statutes, 16-4-105(6)(c). This provision underscores the state’s recognition of medical marijuana’s therapeutic benefits and its commitment to ensuring patients’ access to their prescribed treatments, even when navigating the pre-trial process.

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