This story was updated Tuesday, March 7, 2017, at 1:32 p.m.
DENVER (AP) — Colorado is moving toward limiting growing marijuana at home under a bill that sets a max of 12 plants per residential property.
A House committee voted 11-2 Monday to curb the nation’s most generous allowances for growing cannabis at home.
Colorado currently allows medical marijuana patients to grow up to 99 plants, far beyond other marijuana states, and it also allows recreational users to group their allotted six plants into massive co-ops, entire greenhouses of cannabis that aren’t tracked or taxed.
“It's re-criminalizing something that's already legal here in Colorado.”
Some jurisdictions including Denver already limit homes to 12 marijuana plants.
But sponsors say lower limits are needed statewide to avoid attracting black-market growers. Of the 28 states that allow medical marijuana, none but Colorado allows patients to have more than 16 plants growing in their homes.
“Colorado home-grow laws position Colorado as an attractive market for criminal operations,” said Rep. Cole Wist, R-Centennial.
Others argued that the lax plant rules prompt neighbor complaints about odors and possible fire danger from strained power supplies.
“We’re not here to deprive anyone of medicine … our concern is the effect that it has on neighborhoods,” said Fort Collins Police Detective Jim Lenderts.
The bill approved Monday night would still allow large-scale grows, just not in residential areas. It now awaits a vote by the full House.
Lawmakers were also considering a bill to give law enforcement more money to pursue black-market cannabis.
Deputies of Gov. John Hickenlooper testified that federal uncertainty about the future of marijuana makes it important for states violating federal drug law to impose limits. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other members of the Trump Administration have said states should not be allowed to flout the federal Controlled Substances Act.
“In the midst of uncertainty at the federal level … we think it’s imperative” that Colorado show it can regulate cannabis, said Mark Bolton, the governor’s marijuana adviser.
But the bill passed only after medical marijuana users testified for hours that the limit would force them into the more expensive commercial market. Colorado has some 19,000 medical marijuana patients whose doctors have recommended a high number of plants in order to produce cannabis oils and other medical treatments.
“It’s re-criminalizing something that’s already legal here in Colorado,” said Ashley Weber, head of Colorado NORML.
Lawmakers amended the bill to make it a misdemeanor, not a felony, to be caught with too many plants on the first offense.
“Colorado has the most liberal laws in the country on this,” said Rep. KC Becker, D-Boulder.