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New residential marijuana grow limit likely to pass

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On Monday, March 13, the Colorado House passed a proposal to limit residential pot grows in an effort to clamp down on criminal activity and force more patients into the regulated marketplace. House Bill 1220, “Prevent Marijuana Diversion to Illegal Market,” is the culmination of a years-long debate over the state’s relatively lenient home-grow laws. Currently, those laws limit personal grows to 99 plants. Colorado is the only one of 28 medical marijuana states to allow so many plants, which some claim has led to a proliferation of neighborhood grow operations that divert product out-of-state.

Even though many jurisdictions, including this one, have their own municipal limits, local law enforcement say the absence of an across-the-board state limit makes enforcement complicated.

El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder was among those who testified in favor of HB1220 so his deputies can address the reported hundreds of suspect grows in the county. Local enforcement currently is aimed at achieving voluntary compliance, though the federal Drug Enforcement Agency has been involved in several big busts over the past year.

Patients have decried the measure, which is likely to pass in the Republican-controlled Senate, as a constitutional infringement that endangers the sickest patients who need extended plant counts to make oils that treat their ailments.

In a minor concession to those concerns, lawmakers raised the proposed limit from 12 to 16 plants. Still, a legal challenge is in the works.

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