Colorado officials: 99 marijuana plants per caregiver is too many, and other likely regulations on home grows

Denver and Colorado officials want to cut down on illegal marijuana grows that are leading to black market sales.
3 min. read
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An Aurora police officer responds to an illegal marijuana home grow. (Courtesy of the Aurora Police Department)

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and the city of Denver are working on separate plans to address unlicensed marijuana grows in 2017.

Hickenlooper is hoping legislators will catch up with Denver and other municipalities by boosting limits on how many cannabis plants can be grown by homeowners and caregivers across the state. Denver, meanwhile, is in the process of taking its fight against illegal grows to the next level.

Denver's executive director of Excise and Licenses, Ashley Kilroy, didn't hint at what might be coming down the pike Monday while speaking to the city's Special Issues Marijuana Committee.

Kilroy told council members on the committee that agencies across the city are collecting data on grows now and plan to bring new regulations forward sometime during the first three months of 2017. Agencies will implement the new rules when they're able and ask for council's approval when needed, she said.

Hickenlooper's director of marijuana coordination for the state, Andrew Freedman, told the committee that state officials need help from local law enforcement in Denver and other areas to successfully crack down on illegal grows and sales.

Under the current rules, each person in the state can grow up to six plants without having to get a license like a retail and medical cultivator does. In some instances, residents grow their plants on the same site and create unregulated co-ops where there is, theoretically, no limit to the number of individuals and plants. That poses the risk of marijuana being grown beyond the limits and sold illegally.

The governor is considering asking lawmakers to only allow 12 plants at a residence. Denver already has a law on the books with that plant cap.

The other issue the governor is facing is that caregivers can cultivate up to 99 plants for their patients and that some patients can grow up to 99 plants with a prescription. The governor is also hoping to register these extended grows, move them to properly zoned areas and make them open for inspection.

Starting in January, caregivers will need to register with the state in order to grow more than six plants. The governor's office is hoping legislators will pass other regulations to ensure the plants are being used for intended purposes.

Diversion of Marijuana from nonlicensed Grows: State Response (Courtesy of the state of Colorado)

Colorado could not create a law enforcement agency or other group at the state level to monitor that people are growing what the law allows, Freedman said. But the state can reimburse local agencies for the time and money it takes to investigate and respond to illegal grows.

Right now, Denver police are mostly responding to illegal home grows when neighbors make a complaint. Through October, residents have complained about 72 marijuana grows in the city, according to data Denverite obtained from the city.

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