Colorado Bill Proposes Raising Pot Possession Limit, Sealing Records

A Denver Police Department officer writes a citation during the annual 4/20 celebration at Civic Center Park in 2018.EXPAND
A Denver Police Department officer writes a citation during the annual 4/20 celebration at Civic Center Park in 2018.
Brandon Marshall
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A new bill in the Colorado Legislature proposes raising the limit for adult possession of marijuana to 2 ounces, and also clearing the records of more low-level pot offenders.

Introduced by Representative Alex Valdez, a Democrat from Denver, House Bill 1090 would require courts to seal past convictions for possession of 2 ounces of marijuana or less without giving district attorneys a chance to object. A conviction for a Class 3 marijuana cultivation felony — which involves a charge of growing more than twelve plants but fewer than 25 — would also be sealed, although growing that many plants would not be legalized.

Colorado's current marijuana possession limit for adults is 1 ounce, with registered medical marijuana patients allowed 2 ounces; the state's marijuana plant limit for home growers is twelve plants, with six of those allowed to be mature at any given time.

Unlike Governor Jared Polis's executive order issued in October that automatically cleared state convictions of marijuana possession of 1 ounce or less, this proposal would apply to local convictions, which vastly outnumber the 2,732 state convictions pardoned by Polis. Although the governor was given the power to pardon convictions up to 2 ounces by the 2020 state law allowing him such authority, he chose to stick with one, citing the state's current adult-use possession limit.

Valdez's bill would raise that limit. While his proposal is still in the early stages of discussion and could be amended, the representative notes that "there really isn't much opposition here."

"The intent of the bill is to look at folks who had charges in the past. The big opportunity here is to look back, and that's what we'd like to do," Valdez says.

Valdez wants the process to be automated, but adds that the biggest obstacle would be finding convictions eligible for sealing, as the proposal doesn't set any historic date as a starting point. A new computer program might be necessary in order for courts to look up the old local cases, he suggests.

"This one is especially poignant to me given that the state overwhelmingly voted to legalize marijuana," Valdez says. "This legal system doesn't work unless we retroactively go back to correct the mistakes of the past."

Although Valdez is currently the bill's only sponsor, he says he'll have a co-sponsor in the Senate, and expects the measure to be heard the second week of March by the House Judiciary Committee.

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