In this Sept. 15, 2015 file photo, marijuana grows at the Ataraxia medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion, Ill. (Seth Perlman, Associated Press file)

Colorado Senate committee lowers marijuana plant limit to 12, or 24 with registration

The bill returns to the House, which had set a limit of 16 without a registration option

DENVER — A Colorado plan to crack down on homegrown pot is rapidly heading to the governor’s desk after lawmakers changed the bill to give pot patients more leeway.

A Senate committee vote 5-0 to set a statewide limit of 12 plants per residential property. That’s down from 99 plants under current law.

The bill was changed to give medical marijuana patients and their caregivers up to 24 plants, if they register with the state and with local authorities. Currently, registration is required only if patients have more than 99 plants.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and lawmakers from both parties have called the marijuana crackdown a top priority as the state awaits word of how the new federal administration plans to treat marijuana states.

Of the 28 states that allow medical marijuana, none but Colorado allows patients to have more than 16 plants growing in their homes.
“It is time that we fix this before someone comes in and fixes it for us,” said Greenwood Village Police Chief John Jackson, speaking on behalf of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.

Few testified against the bill, though it would effectively force some marijuana patients to shop from commercial pot retailers. One of the few who did complained that the measure is driven by the profit implications of forcing people to buy pot in stores instead of growing it outside the regulated market.

“We’re not respecting patients’ rights as well as pushing the industry forward,” said Jason Warf of the Southern Colorado Cannabis Council.

Colorado has some 19,000 medical marijuana patients whose doctors have recommended a high number of plants in order to produce cannabis oils and other medical treatments. Some treatments require a pound of marijuana to produce an ounce of cannabis oil.

Lawmakers amended the bill to make it a misdemeanor, not a felony, to be caught with too many plants until the third offense. The bill now awaits a vote by the full House. It has already passed the House, though Senate changes will require the bill to return there before heading to the governor’s desk.

Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt