Longmont's City Council members on Tuesday night voted their unanimous preliminary approval of an ordinance that would regulate and set plant limits on the growing of marijuana inside homes for the residents' medical or recreational use.
The measure, which also deals with inside-the-home production and processing of marijuana products, generally sets a six-plants-per-adult resident limit — up to a maximum of 30 plants per dwelling unit if five or more adults are living in that unit.
A state-registered medical marijuana patient could exceed that six-plant limit if his or her physician has recommended that more are needed to produce the amount of pot or pot-infused products appropriate to treat the patient's condition.
State-registered primary medical marijuana caregivers also would be allowed to grow more than six plants, with the total number to be based on the total plant counts needed by a caregiver's currently assigned patients.
The ordinance would apply to all types of residential dwelling units in Longmont, whether they be single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes, apartments, townhomes or condominiums.
Councilman Brian Bagley said he is of the opinion that "if you want to use marijuana, go nuts. As long as it doesn't impact other people."
Councilwoman Polly Christensen asked whether the ordinance would allow commercial grow houses, and the city staff said it would not.
After asking a number of questions, Christensen said of the staff's latest version of the home-grow ordinance: "This is incredibly detailed, and I think it's a good job."
Councilman Jeff Moore emphasized that home growers and the city will still have to follow state laws about processing marijuana into oil or marijuana-infused products to make sure, for example, that no hazardous chemicals are used, in order to avoid fires and explosions.
While violations of the ordinance's provisions could mean potentially hundreds of dollars in fines — a $500 civil penalty for a first offense, a $750 fine for a second offense within 12 months' time and a $999 fine for a third or subsequent violation in a year's time — Code Enforcement Supervisor Shannon Stadler said city code enforcement officers typically would give people a reasonable period of time in which to comply with a city order to correct the problem.
"We have to take each case separately," Stadler said.
If it's something the person is willing to try to fix, the code officer might decide that "I'm going to give them more time" to do that, Stadler said.
Decisions about when to start imposing fines for non-compliance are generally made when someone delays complying or refuses to do so, Stadler said.
She added: "You have to trust your enforcement officer to apply the law rationally."
A public hearing and possible final council action on the ordinance are scheduled for March 21.
During a public-comment period earlier in the meeting, Angel Hayes said that while she supports the use of marijuana for medical purposes, "under no circumstances should growing be allowed in an attached home."
Hayes told of problems she'd encountered when a neighbor in a unit adjacent to her bedroom had a grow room that effectively "became toxic to me."
Applauding the latest version of the proposed ordinance was Jeri Shepherd, a Greeley resident who is on the board of Colorado NORML — the marijuana-legalization advocacy organization — adding that she has quite a few friends in Longmont.
Shepherd asked the council to keep the ordinance's currently proposed language "as much as it can."
Also speaking in support of the latest proposed measure was Longmont resident Paul Tiger, who had opposed some of the provisions in an earlier version under council consideration last September.
"It looks pretty good," Tiger said of the latest proposed regulations. "I'm saying, 'Yes. Go with it. I like it.'"
John Fryar: 303-684-5211, email@example.com or twitter.com/jfryartc
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