Parker Holds Off on Twelve-Plant Limit for Home Grows

Home growers in Parker won't have to limit their grows to twelve plants — at least not yet.

On Monday, October 3, the Parker Town Council decided to hold off on a pair of proposed ordinances that would limit the size of both an indoor growing space and the number of plants there, regardless of whether the plants are for medical or recreational use. 

The council's decision came on the recommendation of Town Attorney Jim Maloney, who asked for time to explore adding a clause that would exempt some patients and caregivers from the plant cap. Under that proposed addition, Parker residents with a medical need for more than twelve plants would work with the city to set up their growing operations and limit their electricity use to 5,000 watts per grow. 

"The town is sensitive to legitimate growing operations in primary residences that can't be accomplished without alterations," says Maloney.

A limit on light output to 5,000 watts per grow, Maloney says, "would allow the production of marijuana in a private residence without the need to engage in dangerous and illegal modifications to the residence. The twelve-plant cap would not apply to this alternative." 

Maloney said that the rising number of nuisance complaints and "significant illegal modifications made to primary residences" were the main impetuses for the new ordinances. 

Detective Cleveland Holmes told the council that the Parker Police Department has investigated 62 residential marijuana grows so far in 2016. According to Holmes, Parker police are frustrated by the time and effort required to investigate large-scale grows that often turn out to be legal under Amendment 20, which allows patients to grow up to 99 plants per a doctor's recommendation. 

"We were at a point where we were like, well, here we are in Colorado. A lot of neighbors were so frustrated that when we would show up to a grow, you would always see one or two for sale signs around because people were just done, they wanted to get out," Holmes said.

And there are bigger dangers in houses that have been improperly modified. "We've had deputies almost kill themselves," Holmes told the group.

At Monday's meeting, Gil Rossmiller, a Parker building official, discussed several examples of dangerous and illegal conditions found at grow houses in Parker. Hazards included highly flammable foam insulation on grow-room walls, improperly stored chemicals, mold caused by high humidity in grow rooms, improvised electrical wiring and other building modifications. In one house, growers had cut through basement ceiling joists, which are essential for bearing the weight of the floor above, to make room for ventilation ducts.

As written, the proposed ordinance would bring Parker into alignment with Douglas County and Denver, where twelve-plant limits are already in effect. Patients and marijuana activist associations have criticized plant caps in the past, saying that such limits violate patients' rights to grow marijuana in an amount corresponding to medical need.

Ideally, Maloney says, the 5,000-watt electric-usage cap would prevent illegal, hazardous building modifications without infringing on the legitimate grows of marijuana patients and caregivers. "I think you see the point of putting a plant cap on a residence," Maloney told the meeting. "However, there are legitimate growers out there that have health conditions, and based on [Amendment 20], they have the right to grow the marijuana they have a medical need for.... You wouldn't need to destroy a house for the purpose of using 5,000 watts." 

Parker police, building inspectors and other city officials say they hope to research the 5,000-watt limit for approved grows over the next few months.

The Parker Town Council will reconsider the ordinances at their regular meeting on February 6, 2017. 
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.