House OKs ‘Gray Market’ Marijuana Crackdown

(March 13) – A bipartisan bill to keep criminals out of marijuana cultivation in Colorado and protect Colorado communities from industrial-scale growing operations passed the House this morning.

Currently, Colorado law allows each individual to grow up to 99 marijuana plants unlicensed on residential property for medical use and places no hard limits on recreational-use home grows. Drug traffickers have discovered they can come to Colorado, grow large amounts of marijuana in rental houses and claim it’s for medical or recreational use, when what they’re actually doing is selling the stuff on the black market out of state.

“I can think of no quicker way to jeopardize Colorado’s billion-dollar industry than to allow our state to become a significant source of marijuana in other states where it isn’t legal,” said Majority Leader KC Becker, D-Boulder, who is sponsoring HB17-1220 with Assistant Minority Leader Cole Wist, R-Centennial. “Illegal home grows create public safety and public health issues for homes and neighborhoods. We must respect Coloradans who legally grow and use marijuana as medicine while thwarting criminals who are increasingly exploiting the system to grow marijuana for the black market.”

As amended on second reading, HB17-1220 limits home-grown marijuana to 16 plants, with local officials retaining the authority to allow larger grows. The bill initially limited the plant count to 12. Of the 28 states that have legalized marijuana for recreational or medical use, 12 states ban home grows altogether and no other state allows more than 16 plants to be grown in a home.

The House’s 55-10 vote sends HB17-1220 to the Senate, with a pledge from the sponsors to continue to work with patient and caregiver advocates to further address their concerns.

Approved on a voice vote this morning was a companion bill, HB17-1221 by Reps. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, and Yeulin Willett, R-Grand Junction. The bill creates a grant program to help law enforcement crack down on diversions of marijuana into the black market.

“We have to keep Colorado in the forefront in regulating the medical and recreational marijuana market,” Rep. Pabon said. “We want to show the feds that we are doing just fine regulating recreational and medical marijuana. We don’t need their help.”

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