Bill to Limit Home Grows Passes Senate, Could Go to Governor Soon

In an effort to curb the illegal marijuana market in Colorado, the Colorado Senate approved HB 1220 on March 29 by a unanimous vote; the measure would set a new, lower limit for the number of plants a medical patient or caregiver may raise in a residential area. Senator Bob Gardner sponsored the bill to change the statewide cap in an attempt to cut down on outsized grows that could become tools of cartels.

Amendment 64 permitted Coloradans to have six plants for recreational purposes, but medical patients and registered caregivers were allowed up to 99 plants unless local rules called for lower limits. New Mexico has the next highest limit: twelve immature and four mature plants.

As amended, HB 1220 restricts plant counts to a total of twelve for patients across the state, unless a caregiver or patient petitions for more.

Many medical patients and caregivers originally opposed HB 1220, in part because of the high amount of flower needed to make concentrates for some medicine. After negotiations with lawmakers, the bill was amended so that patients or caregivers could register with the state and have their plant limit raised to 24. The bill was also amended so that growing more plants than the legal limit would be a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

The bill now returns to the House, which must sign off on an amendment made by the Senate lowering the cap from sixteen to twelve. After that, it would move to the governor's desk for approval; John Hickenlooper has indicated that he will sign it.

Last August, Hickenlooper released a paper calling the marijuana gray market a "clear and present danger," and said the state needed tighter regulations and better enforcement.

Another bill currently in the legislature, HB 1221, would increase funding for law enforcement to combat gray and black markets; the approximately $6 million would come from marijuana taxes. Earlier this month, HB 1221 passed the House 54-9 majority, but the bill has yet to be scheduled for a Senate vote.

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Kate McKee Simmons interned at the National Catholic Reporter, was a reporter for the New York Post, and spent a brief stint in Israel learning international reporting before writing for Westword.