News5 Investigates: El Paso County commissioners limit marijuana - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

News5 Investigates: El Paso County commissioners limit marijuana plant growing operations

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El Paso County commissioners are limiting the number of marijuana plants homeowners can grow. 

“Folks are coming in from outside our state and in some cases outside the U.S. to grow marijuana in large quantities right in our neighborhoods,” Commissioner Amy Lathen said. “Now, nobody can grow more than 12 plants. It doesn't matter who you are or what you're doing, you can grow 12 and that’s it.”

Colorado State law currently allows medical marijuana patients to grow up to 12 plants.

Here’s the breakdown:

-6 medical

-6 recreational 

However, patients can sign over their growing rights to others, creating large-scale growing operations.

This temporary resolution drafted by commissioners closes this gap. A spokesperson for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office also says that although a person can have up to 12 plants, only 6 can be matured at one time.

Law enforcement told commissioners last month they couldn’t do anything about large operations neighbors complained about, because the laws weren’t clear.

So far this year, CrimeStoppers has responded to 54 complaints related to marijuana home grows.

The number one hotspot for growing pot is near Meridian and Woodmen on the east side of the County.

El Paso County Sheriff’s deputies have identified 10 large grow operations in the unincorporated parts of the county, each of which are growing anywhere from 50 to 250 plants.

Commissioners have also heard from landlords whose tenants have destroyed homes in the process of growing pot.

"The impact to property is extraordinary,” Lathen said. “They don't just walk in and set up shop in a back room and grow a few plants. They gut the walls, strip things down, and pirate electrical and pirate water in some cases."

Prior to this new law, landlords would have to sue tenants in court to recover damages.

Now, violating this ordinance could result in jail time.

"It's a constant balance between the rights of the individual between the rights of the state,” KC Stark, a marijuana activist and owner of Studio A64 said. "Putting a limit on plants for patients seems unkind and unjust. If you're putting a limit on plants because you want to stop drug dealers from moving into the neighborhood, I understand that, but where is the line drawn?”

Stark says if law enforcement’s goal is to crack down on dealers, it may not work.

"Marijuana has been illegal for 79 years and law enforcement has never been able to stop drug dealers so creating laws you cannot enforce can sometimes be worse that having now law at all."  

The temporary resolution is effective immediately. In order for it to become a permanent law, the planning and zoning commission has to sign off on it and modifications need to be made to the land development code.

This is a developing story and we’ll keep you updated as new information becomes available.

You can view a presentation given to El Paso County commissioners last month by a lieutenant with the sheriff’s office by clicking here.

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