Medical marijuana grow limits go before Denver City Council: MMJ advocate predicts fix is in

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Robert Chase.
At 3:30 p.m. today, the Denver City Council will consider zoning language to limit the amount of medical marijuana grown in residential locations. Some advocates believe this measure would severely restrict the rights of MMJ caregivers in Denver -- among them Colorado Coalition for Patients and Caregivers' Robert Chase, who's shared his objections with city council. Not that he thinks his complaints will make any difference.

"They're well on their way to ramming it through," Chase feels.

The council member taking the lead on the MMJ change is Jeanne Robb, who told Westword last month that she "supported our regulations for the dispensary model in our commercial areas, and even in some of our mixed use areas, because I thought it would get the growing out of our residential areas -- and I think it's more appropriate to have it regulated in business areas than to have unregulated home grows in our residential areas."

Robb said she decided to act after dealing with a grow "just off 7th Avenue in our district. It had 68 plants, and it took me four to five months to finally get it moved out of a residential unit. I went to law enforcement, to the DA, to city attorneys, to building inspectors, and said, 'Why does it take us so long to enforce something that shouldn't be in our neighborhood?' And they said, 'Because everything is so unclear.' And I said, 'We need to have some limits.'"

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Jeanne Robb.
Amendment 20, the measure that legalized medical marijuana in Colorado, allows a caregiver to grow six plants per patient -- so Robb settled on a maximum of twelve plants per caregiver in residential areas. In her view, "that's pretty liberal, and it doesn't seem like a hardship," especially considering that larger grows "create mildew and odor for neighborhoods, and that can be a problem. Police have had seventy complaints from residential grows just since March.

"I'm not saying they're evil, but they definitely impact neighborhoods -- just like someone who has too many dogs. I'm not trying to make a value judgment, but I strongly believe in protecting residential neighborhoods in Denver."

Chase doesn't completely dismiss this goal, but he considers the plant limitations to be unwarranted. He instead suggests that the council limit the amount of space set aside for residential grows to no more than eighty square feet of total area before individuals would be required to have a permit. In a letter to council, he argues that "this is a small fraction of even a small apartment's floor space, and does not require so much illumination that categorical concerns about electrical service and lighting should be raised."

Still, Chase sees no indication that the council has seriously considered his suggestion. "They've already determined what they're going to do, which is impose a twelve-plant limit," he says.

As for the possibility of litigation over this issue, Chase acknowledges that most caregivers "aren't in a position to defend their rights," because they lack the financial resources to hire a lawyer and fund a potentially long and expensive case. Nonetheless, he says, "we're going on record" with their gripes.

"It's been a long rearguard action," he adds. "We've been fighting and losing, fighting and losing. But we go on record to speak the truth -- and they're continuing to lie."

Page down to read Chase's letter to council on the proposed plant limits:

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