Vote split on pot plants


ALAMOSA — Following a first reading of amendments in May, Alamosa County officials approved changes to Ordinance 16 that allows for licensed caregivers and patients to grow 24 medical marijuana plants. Commissioners Helen Sigmond and Darius Allen voted for the new number while commissioner Michael Yohn said 24 plants was too high.

"If they have 24 plants then they're doing something else than personal use," Yohn said. "Twelve plants should suffice their wants...If they need more, there's retail and medical to buy."

Yohn also said the state limit is 12 plants. However that isn't entirely accurate. When first passed, Amendment 64 allowed for patients and caregivers to grow up to 99 personal medical marijuana plants without a license. Yet at the start of 2018 Colorado House Bill 17-1220 lowered the number to 12 with the option of local governments increasing it to 24 if the patients and caregivers are registered with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

"We're not talking about personal use," said Alamosa County Undersheriff Shawn Woods, who came up with the amendments with Alamosa County Planning and Building Director Rachel Baird. "We're talking about medical marijuana. Those caregivers feel that they need more than 12. It is legal and we want to try to be fair as we can to those involved in the medical aspect."

"If the state recommended 24, we kind of want to stay with what the state was recommending," Baird said.

If someone grows more than 24 plants then they could have their license restricted, suspended or revoked on top of fines. The fine for a first offense is $500. The second offense is $1,000 and the third is a $5,000 fine. After the first offense each day of violations counts as a separate offense and each plant over the 24 cap counts as a separate offense.

Both Sigmond and Allen approved of the amendments. "I see the difference between personal use and medical use," Sigmond said. "Medical needs have a greater requirement."

"I trust the judgment of our land use and public safety officials," Allen added.

The full ordinance will be published in the Valley Courier.

"It wasn't a decision we've made lightly," Baird said. "It's unfortunate the science is still in its infancy...There's such a huge disparity between what some people think is normal and other people think isn't adequate. There really needs to be more market research so we do know what's accurate. Obvious, 99 plants was extremely excessive but I don't think anybody really knew that at that time."