Colorado is moving to curb the nation’s most generous marijuana allowance for medical patients growing their own plants.
The state House gave preliminary approval Friday to a bill limiting marijuana patients 16 plants in their homes, down from 99.
The measure aims to make it harder to grow pot outside the taxed and regulated commercial pot system.
Colorado regulators have tried for years to stop people from growing large amounts of pot without state taxation or oversight. But because Colorado’s constitution gives people the right to grow as much pot as their doctors recommend, the state has had a hard time making that happen.
“We need to close this loophole,” said Rep. KC Becker, a Boulder Democrat and sponsor of the bill.
This year’s effort would say that marijuana patients can’t have more than 16 plants in a residential property. The change would force those patients to either move to an industrial or agricultural area, or shop at a dispensary.
Of the 28 states with legal medical marijuana, none but Colorado currently allows more than 16 pot plants per home.
Many Colorado jurisdictions including Denver already have per-home plant limits, usually at 12. But the lack of a statewide limit makes it difficult for police to distinguish between legitimate patients and fronts for black-market weed, bill supporters argued Friday.
“The time has come for us … to give law enforcement the guidance they need,” said Rep. Cole Wist, a Centennial Republican and another bill sponsor.
Marijuana patients have been flooding lawmakers with complaints about the bill, which was introduced just last week. The first hearing on the measure lasted until near midnight.
Lawmakers softened the bill by raising its original limit from 12 plants to 16 plants, and by saying that patients caught with too much pot in the House would face a petty offense, and felony charges only later.