|When the Colorado legislature put together the first round of statutes governing the decriminalizing of marijuana, any number of things could not have been, or were, anticipated. From infrastructure issues like water supply and housing, to impact on employment and local taxes, the state has been on a fast learning curve in adapting to the realities of the new billion dollar industry in our midst.
Custer County, Silver Cliff, and Westcliffe have continued to opt out of marijuana industrial growing, harvesting, processing, and distribution, for either medical or recreational use. However, regulated private non-sales growth and use thrive here, as elsewhere in the state. One unforeseen consequence of private household growth and usage has emerged around the size of that growth.
The current restriction of six plants per adult has been taken advantage of by simply increasing the size of the household, allowing in some extreme instances, according to Sheriff Shannon Byerly, of over 90 plants growing in a single house. Byerly has alerted both town boards, as well as the county commissioners—who workshopped their way through the maze of current and pending marijuana ordnances earlier this week—of changes most likely to come out of the statehouse this year.
One of those changes will probably restrict the private growth to 12 plants per household. In the meantime however, Byerly and others wonder about the safety and health issues generated by large growing in private residences. Two things have appeared. One is the advantage renters take of out-of-town or out-of-state property owners, making lighting, heating and electrical modifications within the residence without the owner’s knowledge or permission. That issue can be controlled by rental leases totally restricting marijuana growth.
The other issue is somewhat more disconcerting. “There are no regulations,” Byerly points out, “as to where the plants can be grown…and they require warmth and humidity, the perfect set up for mold.” Larger operations obviously create larger risks for this condition. And the next wonderment then, is the result of exposure children in the household have to the respiratory hazards of molds; they could be sleeping, for example, right next to the grow room, or watching TV in the grow room. “We have no reports to date,” Byerly points out, “but we are alert. Reasonable people understand that there is an environmental demand in the household from the growing.”
When asked if she has seen any cases of such exposure at the school, Nurse Carmalene Odle said, “No, but my greater concern is from the effects of being exposed to smoking inside the home; environmental allergies are always a reality, and air quality is always a factor.”
So, in every case where we might hope for common sense to reign, in this instance in the control of household hazards related to marijuana growth, when it doesn’t, new regulations are liable to take up the slack. Our county, town, and school officials will keep us posted.
– W.A. Ewing