Strains are tested for levels of various cannabinoids to help patients and budtenders know the strength and traits of the plant. This sample of Stevie Wonder is from Pure Medical Dispensary. (Joe Amon, Denver Post file)

Cannabist Q&A: legal CBD, great outdoors, harvest stash

Welcome to our Ask The Cannabist column. Clearly you have questions about marijuana, be it a legal concern, a health curiosity, a Colorado-centric inquiry or something more far-reaching. Check out our expansive, 64-question Colorado marijuana FAQ first, and if you’re still curious, email your question to Ask The Cannabist at

Hey, Cannabist!
I’ve seen many ads online advertising for cannabinoid oils that say “Legal in all 50 states!” This can’t be true can it? I would love to buy some, but am worried about the legal consequences.
–Forest Street Fred 

Hey, Fred!
Cannabis can be confusing and complicated at times, are you asking about cannabinoids or cannabidiol (a.k.a. CBD)? Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. According to Colorado physician Dr. Alan Shackelford, “Botanical cannabis has around 108 different known physiologically active compounds, and the combination of the different compounds is thought to be responsible for the observed effects.”  CBD is a specific compound (another one is THC). Cannabidiol is the cannabinoid that’s all the rage right now.  Now say that three times fast!

As you likely know, some marijuana is higher in CBD and has much lower THC so it’s not psychoactive and doesn’t induce euphoria, as do high-THC varieties.  As for the legality, CBD has been legally defined in the states that recently passed CBD-only medical marijuana laws. According to Marijuana Policy Project, Alabama, Florida, Iowa (pending), Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri (pending), Tennessee (pending), Utah and Wisconsin have CBD-related laws. Depending on where you live, CBD might be at least legally defined on a state level.

Cultivating and utilizing CBD cannabis for medical purposes is fairly new, and the governing federal law is gray. Companies offering CBD-only products legal in all 50 states are operating in this undefined gray area.

Even though CBD is not specifically defined in statute, according to attorney Lauren Davis, in the definition section of federal Schedule I substances, a specific substance need not be explicitly named among the list of Scheduled Substances to be included in Schedule I. In addition, Davis says, cannabinoids act upon the same receptor system in the brain, they are “structurally or pharmacologically substantially similar to” a Schedule I substance.  So, CBD can still be defined federally as a Schedule I controlled substance, and therefore is illegal. XO

High-CBD marijuana: More coverage on Colorado-grown Charlotte’s Web, which has garnered national attention as parents and children flock to Colorado seeking treatment

Medical views: Why Drs. Gupta, Oz and Besser changed their stance on marijuana

Hey, Cannabist!
Why does the state restrict home growers’ six legal plants to an “enclosed, locked space” rather than out back in garden soil and full sunlight with the rest of the herbs? –Backyard Farmer

Hey, Backyard Farmer!
Yes, the language of Colorado’s law says home cannabis gardens must be in a  private locked, enclosed space.  The reason is to restrict kids and pets from the growing cannabis.  Colorado marijuana laws were modified this year with HB-14-1122. Now, Colorado Revised Statutes Article 18-18-406 (3) says that if someone under 21 lives at the residence, the cultivation area must be enclosed and locked. If no one under 21 lives in the home, the external locks of the home suffice in meeting the enclosed and locked requirement. If someone under 21 enters the home, the cultivation site must be reasonably restricted during the duration of the visit.

You can legally grow outside as long as the garden space is lockable and completely enclosed on all sides (think greenhouse). XO

Update made June 11, 2014: The language of HB-14-1122 that clarifies “enclosed”:

“Enclosed” means a permanent or semi-permanent area covered and surrounded on all sides. Temporary opening of windows or doors or the temporary removal of wall or ceiling panels does not convert the area into an unenclosed space.

Hey, Cannabist!
I really enjoy your refreshing coverage of the sea of change that is Colorado grappling with the cannabis transition.  I am a resident and have thankfully been able to grow my own.   I seriously wish to be compliant, but we haven’t the means to grow year round, and must use the sun and such rain as we get on the dry side of the state at 7,000′ elevation.  So, the short season and spring/summer window presses us to save all the product we can to use until the next harvest cycle in late autumn.  Both of us are in our 70s, and have been afforded much relief for several problems by use of this wonderful plant. Assuming my wife and I keep at or below the maximum number of plants according by statute, how much of the produce of harvest are we legally allowed to keep on the premises, as long as it stays on the property?  Thanks for any help in understanding this area of our current permissions.
–Jean Giono

Hey, Jean Giono!
Your area of current permissions are covered in Article 18, Section 16 subsection 3(b) of the Colorado Constitution. You are allowed to keep the harvest from the plants, as long as your cannabis stays on the property where it is grown and is not sold.

Here’s the full language of the section titled Personal use of marijuana:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the following acts are not unlawful and shall not be an offense.  

(b) Possessing, growing, processing, or transporting no more than six marijuana plants, with three or fewer being mature, flowering plants, and possession of the marijuana produced by the plants on the premises where the plants were grown, provided that the growing takes place in an enclosed, locked space, is not conducted openly or publicly, and is not made available for sale.


Direct from Amsterdam: Five tips on growing your own marijuana at home

Stash storage: What’s the best way to keep herb fresh?