Dozens of unlicensed nonresidential marijuana-growing collectives in Denver could be forced to shut down under a new 36-plant limit approved Monday night by the City Council.
City officials justify the new limit by pointing to documentation of unsafe conditions and fire hazards in facilities where they’ve noticed an “exponential increase” in cultivation of untracked marijuana. The unlicensed grows exist in the cracks of Colorado’s marijuana legalization amendments; the ordinance also would apply to caregivers who grow a large number of plants.
City officials say they have identified more than 60 sites across the city that would be affected.
The ordinance, which passed 11-0 as part of a block vote, won’t affect licensed commercial grow houses.
A Denver attorney who consults for medical marijuana businesses argues the new rules trample on patients’ state constitutional rights.
Colorado allows residents to grow six plants at home, or 12 per household, unless a doctor recommends more.
Some medical marijuana patients need far more plants to supply enough cannabis oil for their treatments, attorney Warren Edson said.
And he said dispensaries can’t always accommodate their needs, making collectives a better option. Dispensaries also are costlier for patients.
Dan Rowland, the spokesman for the city’s marijuana policy office, says the hard 36-plant limit was picked because it mirrors state rules allowing caregivers to grow six plants each for five patients and themselves.
But Edson suggested the city regulate the collectives rather than apply such a severe restriction.
“Providing patients and consumers with commercially zoned lots, with proper build-out and security, would seem to both meet the city’s concerns as well as allow the consumer, be it medicinal or recreational, to fulfill their own needs,” Edson said.
City officials, however, say they can’t regulate activity that isn’t allowed under state laws implementing the voter-passed amendments, beyond following the plant limits for caregivers.
Attendees Monday included the family of Coltyn Turner, a 15-year-old with severe Crohn’s disease.
His family moved him to Colorado Springs from Illinois a year ago to take advantage of marijuana treatments. They’ve relied on a caregiver in Longmont for treatments that Wendy Turner credits with putting her son into remission.
Though Denver’s new law won’t affect their caregiver, she said that she worried other cities and counties would follow Denver’s lead.
Jon Murray: 303-954-1405, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/JonMurray