Legal Changes on the Horizon for Colorado Home Grows

The Colorado Constitution contains the most liberal home grow laws in the nation. Most legal marijuana states have residential plant limits in the single digits, and some do not allow home grows at all.

In Colorado, every adult over 21 may grow up to 6 recreational plants (with no more than 3 flowering at once), even where multiple adults live together (1). A patient with a valid medical marijuana card, or his or her primary caregiver, may also grow as many plants as recommended by a doctor (with no more than half flowering at once). Caregivers can grow for up to 5 patients, or more if they have a waiver from the state. Importantly, all marijuana grown at home is strictly for personal or medical use. It cannot be sold under any circumstances.

But the Colorado Constitution also allows local laws to further restrict home grows (short of an outright ban). Denver, for example, passed a limit of 12 plants per residence, regardless of how many adults live there or how many plants a patient has been recommended for by a doctor (2). Many other communities followed suit, enacting plant limits, grow area or volume limits, or location limits (such as banning grows outdoors or in sheds or greenhouses). Home grows must also comply with nuisance laws concerning excessive smell, noise, or lighting.

Additionally, the Colorado state legislature passed new laws limiting private medical grows. As of January 1, 2017, both patients and caregivers may not grow more than 99 plants total under any circumstance, and most caregivers will be limited to 36 plants. Caregivers will also be required to register with the state (3).

Even with these developments, it appears Colorado will further restrict home grows. Calls for additional limits stem from the so-called “grey market” – marijuana grown legally but sold illegally (in many cases at premium prices in states where marijuana remains illegal). The grey market potentially threatens Colorado’s legal, regulated market. Currently (but subject to change at any time), the federal government says it will not intervene in legal marijuana states except in certain circumstances, one of which is marijuana spilling into other states.

To address such grey market concerns, Governor John Hickenlooper recently proposed several changes affecting home grows:

  • closing loopholes that may allow people to join together in cooperative grows;
  • creating a statewide residential plant limit carrying criminal penalties (current local limits usually carry civil fines);
  • increasing paperwork and oversight for caregivers and patients with large plant counts;
  • giving law enforcement more money to enforce home grow laws (4).

It is not yet clear whether any of the Governor’s proposals will be enacted. But with lawmakers focusing in on grey market concerns, home growers, especially caregivers, need to pay close attention to changes in the law or enforcement policies.