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We received several emails from readers who suspect marijuana grow operations have become more common in their neighborhoods since Colorado legalized recreational cannabis.
WHAT WE FOUND
We talked with Denver Police Commander James Henning who heads the department’s marijuana team.
The short answer is yes; residential grow houses are on the rise in Denver.
“We have seen more grows move from commercial properties into residential properties,” Henning said.
Why the change in location?
In March 2015, Denver City Council passed a law limiting unlicensed growing collectives that used commercial space to 36 plants.
Colorado allows medical pot patients to grow up to 99 plants, and caregivers can grow as many plants as they have patients.
That’s substantially more than the number of plants allowed by other states with legal marijuana.
In Denver, this change is what moved many growers from commercial space to homes.
“A lot of the people who were growing as caregivers or just straight up illegal moved their plants into homes,” Henning said.
Commercial properties get inspected twice a year by the fire department. But that never happens when you rent or own a home.
Residential grow houses aren’t regulated, and it’s created a place for people looking to skirt the laws.
If you stay within the legal limit in Denver and grow 12 plants in your basement, Henning said odds are no one would notice.
The grow houses he sees often hold hundreds of plants.
That’s when neighbors start to notice things like smell, extra air-conditioning units, boarded windows or people who frequently come and go from the house.
“One reason why the state legislature is really looking at this is because there’s huge neighborhood impact,” Henning said.
So, lawmakers are considering a bill that would lower the legal limit on plants in residential areas.
Opponents of the bill say growers need a lot of plants to make the cannabis oils and other treatments they use as medication.
Denver Police have seen a rise in residential grow houses since the city restricted the number of plants allowed in commercial properties.
If you suspect someone is growing marijuana illegally in your neighborhood, you can call 311.