Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) released an Intelligence Report in June 2016 entitled, “Residential Marijuana Grows in Colorado: The New Meth Houses?” In the report, the DEA states that Colorado lacks successful laws regarding how much cannabis can be grown within a private residence.
Colorado’s Constitution does put a limit on how much recreational cannabis each individual is permitted to grow. Under Article XVIII, Section 16: Personal Use and Regulation of Marijuana in the Colorado Constitution, people ages 21 and over in Colorado cannot possess, grow, process or transport more than six cannabis plants, with no more than three of those plants being mature plants with flowers. Also, growing cannabis for personal use must be done in a closed, locked place that is not available to the public or for sale.
In this report, however, the DEA claims Colorado’s legislation still contains loopholes, which enables large-scale grows in private residences. One loophole the DEA is referring to is that physicians in Colorado were allowed to recommend up to six plants to a patient, unless the physician could justify recommending more. As we recently saw, four doctors in Colorado recently had their licenses suspended for recommending up to 501 plants to one person. The four doctors have since sued the state.
The DEA claims that large-scale cannabis grows can cause serious damage to homes from house fires to blown electrical transformers and even damage to the environment. The report compares these large-scale cannabis grows to the dangerous and often fatal manufacturing of the dangerous chemical drug methamphetamine, stating, “Much like the ‘meth houses’ of the 1990s, many of these homes may ultimately be rendered uninhabitable.”
Not all residential cannabis grows are taking advantage of this loophole, and many people who use cannabis for recreational or medicinal purposes in Colorado depend on their ability to grow up to six plants in their homes. Not all residential cannabis grows are cause damage to homes or the environment, but those facts are not considered in the DEA’s report. Instead, the report focuses on how large-scale cannabis grows, “ . . . will likely continue to attract drug traffickers and criminal organizations.” This is reporting on a state that, since legalization, has over 80 percent less criminal charges for people possessing, cultivating and distributing cannabis, according to drugpolicy.org.
There is legislation coming into play in January 2017 that will limit the number of cannabis plants permitted to be grown on a private residence to 99. Until then, the DEA continues to make claims that results of growing cannabis plants can be comparable to those from manufacturing meth. However, this shouldn’t be surprising considering the current scheduling under the Controlled Substance Act holds cannabis (Schedule I) as a more dangerous drug than meth (Schedule II).