Colorado was one of the pioneering states who, in 2012, legalized recreational marijuana first. The state voted to allow adults over the age of 21 to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow up to 6 plants. Colorado’s medical marijuana program, however, allowed patients to grow up to 99 plants. Being one of the first states to have a recreational marijuana industry has meant going through a lot of trial and error when it comes to developing the strongest and fairest regulations. Now the state has found that allowing people to grow such high quantities of plants has led to the development of a “grey” market.
The 12 Plant Cap
According to officials, people are creating large scale grow operations in their homes and then selling the product to people in other states. Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper has stated that one of the most important factors in legalizing marijuana was stopping the black market. For this reason, he signed House Bills 1220 and 1221 which will put a cap on the number of plants that can be grown at home to 12. It would also allocate $6 million from marijuana tax revenue to go towards black market law enforcement. Caretakers with exceptional circumstances will be allowed to grow up to 24 plants but that will be the absolute limit.
Consequences for Violation
In order to grow more than 6 plants, under the medical marijuana regulations, a person must receive a doctor’s recommendation and be a registered patient. For those who violate the cap, the first offense will be regarded as a petty offense and offenders will be given a $1000 fine. For those who are unregistered and are growing up to 24 plants, a second or subsequent offense would result in a misdemeanor penalty. Those who grow more than 24 plants will incur a felony penalty for second or subsequent offenses. At first, lawmakers made every offense a felony but the penalties were reduced during the legislative process.
“No Longer the Wild West”
“These bills are a big step in eliminating the black market, tightening up our regulatory system to make sure that that kind of criminal behavior does not go forward,” said Hickenlooper. The cap is more in line with the cap placed on growing in other states. “At a certain point we are no longer the Wild West,” Hickenlooper said at the bill signing ceremony. “I don’t think it’s a good thing for Colorado to have the loosest set of laws around part of the regulatory framework around marijuana.”
The new will take effect in January 2018 although there are already some areas such as Denver, El Paso County and Colorado Springs that already have functioning caps in place. According to Hickenlooper, the caps are designed to prevent the violence that is often associated with the black market and drug trafficking. A Keating Research poll revealed that the majority of Colorado residents are in favor of the 12 plant cap. 57 percent supported the move against the 36 percent who opposed it. The move is another step forward in defining Colorado marijuana regulations.