Colorado lawmakers are pushing to restrict the number of cannabis plants cultivated at home for personal use.
According to the Associated Press, a House committee approved a measure on Monday in a vote of 11-to-2 intended to inflict a 12 plant limit on home grows in residential areas.
Presently, Colorado law allows medical marijuana patients to cultivate as many as 99 plants, while giving the recreational sector the freedom to grow up to six plants on personal property.
However, some of the gray areas of the law have reportedly allowed for an influx of organized crime – weed is being grown legally and then sold on the black market.
Some local jurisdictions already have a 12-plant limit in residential areas, but Colorado’s governing forces want to bring this concept to the state level to discourage cartel activity.
Governor John Hickenlooper said last year that the state’s gray marijuana market was causing a legal conundrum. Calling the situation a “clear and present danger” he suggested that action would be taken during the 2017 legislative session to reduce the opportunities for drug dealers.
But marijuana advocates are worried that if the state passes a more restrictive cultivation law, it will do nothing more than harm patients. At the same time, Colorado lawmakers argue that the state is the only jurisdictions in the U.S. with ultra-liberal grow limits – most do not even allow for 20 plants.
Colorado officials believe it is imperative to reel in its marijuana laws to prevent interference by the federal government.
"In the midst of uncertainty at the federal level ... we think it's imperative" that Colorado show it can regulate pot,” Mark Bolton, the governor's marijuana adviser, told the Associated Press.
President Trump’s Department of Justice, led by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has given some indication that the recreational marijuana industry could be targeted by the DOJ in the coming months. Colorado worries that if the DOJ suspects its loose cultivation laws are feeding the black market, the whole scene could come crumbling down.
Still, pot advocates argue that Colorado is simply trying to “re-criminalize” something that has been legal for years.
If the measure goes the distance, the new law would not prevent large scale grow operations altogether, only in residential areas. The bill would also make it a misdemeanor for first time offenders caught in violation of the new grow restrictions.
The proposal is now set to go before the full House for a vote.