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Colorado poll shows that many favor holding down the number of legal home-grow pot plants

March 21, 2017 Updated: March 22, 2017 at 6:34 am
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A survey reveals that Colorado voters favor limiting the number of marijuana plants that can be grown at home. File photo.

Colorado voters favor limiting the number of marijuana plants that can be grown at home, according to a survey obtained by ColoradoPolitics.com.

There is broad support for limiting home grows to 12 plants, according to the Keating Research poll, which was conducted between March 8-13.

Colorado voters favor the 12-plant limit by 21 points, 57 percent to 36 percent.

The poll comes as state lawmakers debate limiting home-grows to 16 plants. The legislation started with a limit of 12 plants, but lawmakers upped the proposal to 16.

House Bill 1220 passed the House on March 13 on a vote of 55-10.

Meanwhile, when it comes to federal interference, the same poll found that Colorado voters want authorities to stay out of Colorado. By 2-to-1, voters oppose enforcement of federal marijuana laws in Colorado, 64 percent to 32 percent.

In the plant count bill, in addition to upping the limit to 16, lawmakers also eased criminal penalties for violating the proposed law. A first violation would be a petty offense subject to a $1,000 fine. Second or subsequent offenses would carry a felony penalty.

The bill originally made any offense a felony.

Lawmakers also defined what a plant is so that people wouldn't be arrested for having several seedlings. Not all seedlings become mature plants, so lawmakers wanted to allow flexibility. A plant would be defined as being in a container that is more than 8 inches wide by 8 inches high, or a flowering plant regardless of size.

The measure would preserve local control by allowing jurisdictions to have a different limit than 16 plants.

Another bill moving through the legislature, House Bill 1221, would reimburse local governments for home-grow and diversion enforcement efforts.

The Keating Research poll may actually suggest that Colorado voters believe 12 plants is too many. Amendment 64, which legalized retail marijuana in 2012, extended constitutional rights to grow marijuana, but only up to six plants per person.

Republicans and older voters surveyed showed less support for the 12-plant limit. For Republicans, 47 percent favored the limit, while 42 percent of voters over the age of 65 supported it.

OnSight Public Affairs, which paid for the poll with Keating Research, said less support for the limit from Republicans and older voters leads them to believe that those voters think that 12 plants is too many.

Colorado law allows individuals to grow up to 99 plants if their doctor determines that the patient has a medical necessity for more than six plants. A caregiver can grow medical marijuana for each of the patients they serve.

Colorado is more generous than other states that allow home grows. California, for example, limits home grows to six plants.

Those behind the poll say women over the age of 50 are traditionally opposed to legal marijuana. Only 49 percent of that bloc support a 12-plant limit, suggesting that those voters also believe that 12 plants is too many.

"The reality is voters in these groups are more likely to be against legalized marijuana, so it's not that they are against a 12-plant limit, they want no plants, or at least the six-plant limit they thought they voted on," said Curtis Hubbard, with OnSight Public Affairs.

Supporters of the home-grow limit say it would curb illegal diversion. Growers are cultivating dozens of plants at home legally using loopholes, but then diverting the product out of state to the black market.

Law enforcement agencies last week busted large-scale marijuana grows at what is believed to be 20 locations across the Front Range.

The intent of the home-grow legislation is to curb the so-called "gray market" practice, thereby leaving less incentive for the federal government to interfere.

"Colorado voters more and more believe that we are succeeding here with legalized marijuana, while properly regulating and collecting the revenues, and that we don't need to go backwards on the issue," Hubbard said.

But medical marijuana patients and their allies have been passionately fighting the legislation to curb home-grows.

At a hearing for House Bill 1220, dozens of cannabis patients and caregivers told stories of producing medicine at home. Some of those patients said they need larger plant counts in order to produce concentrates and edibles. They called medical marijuana a "miracle."

Critics of the home-grow crackdown wonder why the bill is coming soon after the legislature required caregivers to register with the state, a mandate that started in January. The registration allows law enforcement to know whether a grower is growing for legitimate patients, though it does not require patients themselves to register.

Opponents of the bill say any illegal diversion is because market demand is not being met, pointing out that not all communities allow for cannabis licensing. They say lawmakers should be doing more to expand access to marijuana.

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