How Denver, Colorado Marijuana Laws Will Change Beginning in 2017

Laws at the Colorado State Capital

Whether you are currently visiting, living in, traveling through, researching on, or just experiencing Colorado first-hand, the state regulated marijuana for adult and medical use remains a legal quagmire to anyone wanting to experience the retail side of Colorado marijuana laws. And for good reason: the official rule book for recreational and medical markets are EACH 135 pages long. In the short novel of legalese, definitions on everything from what hours you can operate, to how you destroy waste, to how taxes are collected and paid, even how the licensing procedure works are all laid out. In the spirit of the impending New Year, let’s check out how Colorado marijuana laws will change in Denver beginning in 2017.

Shake Shakeup

With the Trump Administration poised to shake up the existing order of things, regulators and government officials in Colorado are looking to ensure the voter-backed measure(s) allowing marijuana for both medical and recreational use has more than upheld efforts to remove black market sales, prevent underage use, and prevent interstate trafficking. For the retail shopper in Denver, you may have noticed a recent change in packaging. If you didn’t, dispensaries and cannabis product manufacturers sure did. In October, Colorado passed through mandates requiring standardized edible dosing, the removal of the word ‘candy’ or ‘candies’ from any product, as well as standard symbol communicating the product contains cannabis. This was just the first of tightening regulations, with a second wave that will change the marijuana laws in Denver Colorado beginning in 2017.

The Context

DEA posted an intelligence report on black market marijuana endeavors that have seen an increase in the state of Colorado after passing recreational adult use. The focus was on the how little the state controls at-home cultivation and processing of concentrates with volatile, easy to buy substances (butane, alcohol, etc..). Titled “Residential Marijuana Grows in Colorado: The New Meth Houses?”, the release discusses several federally unsavory enterprises that have spurred from low regulation on at-home grow operations. They, well they make a compelling case:

Grow operations are unsafe for fire and safety personnel

Among the concerns voiced by the DEA, the effect of removing walls, dismantling floorboards, adjusting electrical wiring, installing ventilation, using humidifiers, and keeping the temperatures warm and wet year round lead to significant damage to the property — sometimes in ways that make the home a safety hazard. From mold and structural damage, the use of flammable substances to make concentrates, or even using hazardous pesticides in growing the plants all bare public health concerns. And if anyone was to call and complain, the police or fire personnel would be at a disadvantage if structural changes, wiring, and flammable chemicals were compounded by a human accident, forcing those working in public services to incur unnecessary safety risks.

Grow Operations are wasteful of resources

It depends on the type of resource — Money, for instance, is a resource that is wasted on taxes when you can grow your own. In terms of other resources required to maintain an indoor, secure grow, electricity and water costs can accumulate quickly, depending on the stage of the plant life cycle. Add in the hazard of trying to increase energy output by adjusting wiring, and you are just burning through electricity, carrying a heavy bill at months end.

High plant counts and co-op growing impede legal efforts, not illegal ones

Colorado allows medical consumers or their caregiver to grow enormous quantities of plants — up to 99 per 300 sq ft. While high plant counts only make up around 8% of Colorado’s medical consumers, recreational growers have found similarly encouraging loopholes in the constitutional amendment that allows legal adult use. What the DEA observed: limits do not exist on how many adults can have their six legal plants grown under a single roof. As a result, homes across Colorado have been used to cultivate large quantities of untaxed, untracked, and unregulated marijuana — often destined for states beyond the four imaginary lines supporting Colorado’s shape.

Combined, these seem like a checklist that the DEA wants to see better managed, if not resolved. And it is these items that will affect how Denver Colorado marijuana laws change in the beginning of 2017.

The Action

As you can imagine, the uncertainty surrounding the incoming President have more than just Colorado looking to be above-the-board, yet the state is not wasting time to get it done. The Governor, John Hickenlooper, has stated that it is exceedingly difficult to differentiate between legitimate and illegal grow operations under the flexible wording and liberal plant counts allowed under the state constitution. When police investigate, they are often left unsure how to proceed because of how the laws are written and how frequently the regulations change. In an effort to stem the flow of marijuana to outside Colorado, the state is pushing for much lower allowances on plant counts allowed within an individual residence, aiming to break up the co-op grows that lead to interstate trafficking. Here’s how Denver Colorado marijuana laws will change beginning in 2017:

  • A twelve count plant allowance per residence: By limiting residential grows to a total of 12 plants, regardless how many adults have their plants there, the state hopes to limit structural damage associated with larger grows as well as deter the abuse of legal cultivation fueling marijuana transport out of state. While other counties have preceded this ruling, enacting local ordinances that limit residential cultivation, the rule takes effect across the state.
  • Seeking bans on Co-op growing: While limiting plant counts affects predominantly recreational markets, seeking a ban of co-op grows has been seen as the greedy government wanting the additional tax revenues. While this doesn’t appear to be the case in my opinion, the fact remains that co-op grows have been identified by the DEA as a point of concern, and the state is wanting to quell Federal concerns.

Additionally, caregivers remain free from registering with the state, though they are more than encouraged to. Under Colorado Senate Bill 14, enacted in 2015, beginning in 2017, caregivers allowed no more than 99 plants, They additionally may be required to submit to background checks and pay licensing fees. Growers may additionally have access to state testing facilities for their plants.

Whether you see it as a logical step or over-regulation, the actions are being taken to provide the best assurances possible that the Feds are going to avoid interfering with Colorado’s marijuana industry, dictating how Denver, Colorado marijuana laws will change beginning in 2017.