Tonight's the final reading of Denver City Councilwoman Jeanne Robb's measure to impose medical marijuana grow restrictions in residential areas. At this point, she says they're likely to omit all mention of caretakers and restrict patients to six plants apiece or twelve plants at a single location.
"I first brought this forward in early July," says Robb. "And the original proposal was six plants for patient-cardholder and a maximum of twelve plants per household" -- a restriction she deemed necessary after spending four or five months trying to get a grow near 7th Avenue moved from a residential unit. She says it contained 68 plants.
"I subsequently heard from caretakers, who said, 'You can't caretake for every patient in their own house' -- because I thought caretakers could grow for patients in their homes," Robb continues. "So we took time to see if there was a way to allow twelve plants per caretaker -- even though some of them didn't think twelve plants was enough."
A number of meetings, two of which took place under the auspices of a special issues committee headed by Councilman Charlie Brown, dealt with attendant matters, including a request by caretakers to keep their addresses confidential -- something that would have proven tricky considering that the city would be granting them a use permit of the sort that's typically public. Other members also wondered if medical marijuana was being unfairly singled out for regulation. As Robb notes, some thought "that giving piano lessons might be a more intense use -- or child care. If you can have six kids in a child-care facility, why not have six patients?"
In the end, however, Robb says her fellow council members appear to have come together over the patient-cardholder restrictions, with no amendment for caregivers.
"I'm still concerned about caregivers," Robb stresses. "But to move forward with that before the state has defined caregivers and what their services are... well, I think taking things back would be harder than waiting to see what they do. And I don't think we could totally outlaw home growing -- but I think we can restrict it to just patients in neighborhoods through zoning."
As a result, twelve plants would be okay in a residence occupied by two patient-cardholders -- and if the household included another patient-cardholder, that third person "would have to get his medical marijuana from a dispensary," Robb explains. "Because they can still only have twelve plants."
One of the reasons Robb supported dispensary regulations in Denver, she says, "is because I didn't think medical marijuana should be in our neighborhoods. And now that we have pretty liberal regulations for dispensaries in commercial areas, we need to look at the neighborhood side and decide what's appropriate."
As of this morning, Robb is fairly confident that the full council will agree that her measure is a good start toward dealing with this subject. But she notes that with a topic this "volatile," minds can be changed by public comment -- and she expects that quite a few folks will come to tonight's meeting, which begins at 5:30 p.m. in city council chambers, to make their opinions heard.
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Already, advocate Robert Chase has sent the council a letter complaining about residential grow limits, which he sees as unnecessary and unenforceable.
By the way, an equally divisive point of controversy -- pit bulls, which are banned in Denver -- is also on the agenda tonight. According to Robb, the measure deals with possibly allowing pit bulls that are used as service animals within city limits. But from what she's heard, discussion of the notion is likely to be postponed due to an already full plate.
About MMJ limits, Robb admits that they're "not perfect at this stage. But my goal was to make things very clear, because enforcement is really difficult. And if it passes, it will be really clear: twelve plants -- and if they can't grow more in their home, medical marijuana is available at dispensaries."