The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office will enforce the new marijuana cultivation ordinance. Violators could be fined up to $1,000. Pictured: Marijuana matures at the Medicine Man dispensary and grow operation in northeast Denver on December 5, 2013 (Ed Andrieski, The Associated Press)

This Colorado county gets harsh with growing marijuana

Douglas County commissioners passed one of Colorado’s toughest marijuana grow ordinances Tuesday, restricting the number of plants at any primary residence to 12, banning outdoor grows and prohibiting tenants in rental properties from cultivating the drug without permission from the property owner.

The new restrictions apply to unincorporated portions of the county and come in response to what law enforcement officials say is a proliferation of small-scale grow operations popping up in private homes across Douglas County.

Related: Colorado county setting new rules for home weed growers

“We’ve been struggling with this for a couple of years,” said Chief Deputy Steve Johnson of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s really gotten out of control.”

Johnson said some grow operations overload electrical capacity, increasing the risk of a fire. The county’s ordinance also prohibits the use of compressed flammable gas, such as butane, in growing pot.

Douglas County’s new regulations could invite litigation from those who claim they run afoul of the state’s medical marijuana statutes, acknowledged deputy county attorney Kelly Dunnaway. The state permits caregivers to grow six plants per patient but Douglas County places its limit of 12 plants per household on “any person, including but not limited to patients, primary caregivers, or persons for personal use.”

But Dunnaway said the county is in the right legally because it has power to regulate marijuana cultivation through its land use powers. As such, the new ordinance limits the total space used for growing to a contiguous 1,000 cubic feet and limits marijuana cultivation to one structure on a single plot. If that structure is an accessory to a home, then the land must be 1 acre or larger.

Areas used for growing or processing will also have to be fully enclosed and locked. The common areas of a multifamily or attached residential development are not permitted as grow areas.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office will enforce the ordinance. Violators could be fined up to $1,000.

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