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Colorful Colorado. Known to some as the “Highest State” (pun totally intended), it’s home to a huge portion of the Rocky Mountains, a wide variety of wildlife, and countless world-class ski resorts.

It’s also home to plenty of people. With recreational marijuana legal as of January 1st, 2014, transplants from other states have been flocking to Colorado in droves. The last count, taken on July 1st, 2015, showed the state’s population at 5,456,574 – an increase of 101,000 over the previous year.

This isn’t to say that everyone who has moved to the Centennial State in the last two years has come for the legal weed. But make no mistake about it: for many, it is a huge reason to make Colorado their new home.

Marijuana lovers coming from far less progressive states are thrilled at the prospect of paying less for their weed than they would if they had obtained it illegally in their home state. It’s a great opportunity to cut out the middle man, so to speak, and know that their bud is safe and grown in an environment that is highly controlled and regulated by the state.

But prices for recreational marijuana can still be high. Sure, purchasing cannabis in a dispensary is great, but it can easily run you upwards of $250/ounce, plus a 10% special tax, a 2.9% state sales tax, and any local taxes. It’s a dilemma that has left many CO residents wondering if there’s a better way, and the answer is yes: apply for a Red Card.

How to Get Your Colorado Medical Marijuana Card

Even though there are plenty of ways your Red Card could be denied, it’s not exactly hard to get. There are plenty of places in Denver alone where you can go to have a medical marijuana evaluation performed. Just be prepared, as many of the places that perform evaluations are quite popular and may have a substantial wait time.

Wherever you choose to visit, knowing what to expect will help the process move along quickly and smoothly. If you are going to apply for your Red Card, the first step is to make sure you are a resident of the state of Colorado with a valid social security number.

Certain places will help you complete all of the necessary paperwork, but others will expect you to have most of the work done and just provide the physician’s certification. Research the practice you have chosen to ensure that you know exactly what you need to do before your consultation.

What follows are some additional instructions on how to get your Red Card in Colorado.

Step 1

Bring your state-issued Colorado ID and cash to pay for your physician’s consultation.

Step 2

Fill out the Application for Medical Marijuana Card, or be prepared to fill it out when you get to the clinic.

Step 3

Consult with the doctor. They will probably ask you a few questions about why you’re seeking a Red Card, what condition(s) you are seeking it for, and what your pain level is on a daily basis. See below to see if you have a qualifying condition.

Step 4

Get your application notarized after the consultation. It may not be notarized by you, your caregiver, or your physician, so it’s best to seek the services of a notary public. Some evaluation clinics will have a notary on staff and who can notarize your paperwork for a small fee.

Step 5

Write a check or get a money order to pay the state fee. The fee is $15 and the check or money order must be made out to “CDPHE”.

Step 6

Decide if you want to designate a caregiver. You don’t have to and if you choose not to now, you can always do so later. However, if you want to go ahead and designate a caregiver, you’ll need to fill out a Caregiver Acknowledgment.

Step 7

Get your paperwork together. You’ll need to submit your notarized and completed application, the completed Physician’s Certification Form signed by the doctor, a photocopy of your Colorado ID, and your check or money order for $15 made out to “CDPHE”.

Step 8

Submit your forms. If mailing, Red Card applications must be sent by the patient through certified mail or they will be denied. The mailing address is:



4300 Cherry Creek Drive South

Denver, CO 80246-1530

You can also turn your application in physically by putting all of your forms into one sealed envelope, and dropping it in the drop box located at the southeast corner of Building C at the Colorado Department of Public Health: 710 S. Ash Street, Denver, CO 80246-1530. You can drop your envelope off at any time Monday to Friday, from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Advantages of the Medical Marijuana Card

Red Cards are Colorado’s system for assigning medical marijuana privileges to individuals. Even with the ready availability of recreational marijuana, it is still beneficial to be a medical marijuana patient for several reasons:

  • You can grow more plants, or assign a caretaker to grow them for you.
  • You’ll pay less in taxes.
  • You’ll get to choose from a greater variety of bud.
  • Bud and edibles available to medical patients can be much more potent.
  • You can purchase up to two ounces at once, instead of just one.

Acceptable and Deniable Conditions

Rec Cards are great, but not everyone who applies has their application approved. Colorado legalized medical cannabis in 2000, but has cracked down on who can and cannot get their Red Card since recreational sales were legalized. The intent is to avoid situations that allow doctors to hand out prescriptions for conditions that really don’t warrant medical marijuana.

With that in mind, check out the lists below. The first goes over some of the conditions that qualify you to be a medical marijuana patient, whereas the second covers the conditions for which your application is sure to be denied.

Qualifying Conditions

  • Glaucoma
  • Cancer
  • Severe/Chronic Pain
  • Seizures/Epilepsy
  • Cachexia
  • Severe Nausea
  • Persistent Muscle Spasms
  • Arthritis
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Fibromyalgia
  • GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)
  • IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
  • Migraines
  • Neuropathy
  • Reflux Disorders
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Conditions Denied by the State

  • Asthma
  • Bipolar Disease
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Type 1 and 2 Diabetes
  • Diabetic Retinopathy
  • Severe Anxiety
  • Clinical Depression
  • MRSA
  • Hypertension
  • Opioid Dependence
  • PTSD
  • Tourette’s Syndrome

Waiting for your Red Card to Arrive

Mailing your paperwork via certified mail will provide you with a tracking number. This is nice because it allows you to look your number up on the USPS website and see when your application was received by the state. CDPHE updates their website daily to show what day’s applications they are processing, so knowing when they received your paperwork will give you a better idea of where your application is in the process.

We hope that you’ve found this information useful and that it makes the process of getting your Red Card seem a little less daunting. If you still have some questions, you can visit CDPHE’s FAQ page for information on replacing a lost card, whether or not lamination is allowed, and more.

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