City Council weighs rules for marijuana growing in homes

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By Ramsey Scott

Now that Littleton has banned retail sales of marijuana for a year, it’s turning its attention to building codes as they apply to growing marijuana in a home. 

Under Colorado’s voter-approved Amendment 64, residents can grow up to six marijuana plants in a locked, enclosed area in a home. 

Littleton is concerned that home-grow set-ups could pose a fire risk by overloading circuits with poorly set-up equipment. The city also wants to mitigate mold developing in grow rooms and marijuana odor becoming a nuisance for neighbors. 

During the first reading of the proposed ordinances on Oct. 15, City Council members had several questions about what grow operations would entail, how big they would be, what chemicals would be used and how they would affect neighbors. 

The council will vote on the proposed codes on Oct. 29 during its regular meeting. 

James Van Diest, who along with his daughter owns the Hemp Center medical marijuana dispensary in Littleton, said the council’s concerns about the impacts of a home-grow set-up were overblown. 

Van Diest said that because residents are allowed only three plants that are flowering, growers would need two set-ups using no more than 60 square feet of space. 

“It’s very small. You could (run a grow light) out of a plug in the wall. One light uses a maximum of 2,000 watts, the same as a hair dryer,” Van Diest said. “With six plants, you’d have very little smell. You’ll get more of an odor from your car starting up in the morning than you would from three plants flowering.”

Van Diest said he hopes the council will seek an expert’s advice on marijuana issues before making decisions. 

“Every City Council meeting I’ve been to, they are so confused,” Van Diest said. 


Proposed building code changes

While high-intensity discharge lamps already are banned in homes, Littleton has proposed several changes to the city code specifically for homegrown marijuana:

• Growing marijuana in a multifamily building, such as an apartment or a townhome, would be prohibited. 

• Growers would need to install a ventilation and filtration unit to mitigate the smell of growing marijuana. 

• The use of compressed, flammable gas to extract THC from marijuana would be prohibited. That process produces a concentrated marijuana product commonly referred to as “wax.”

• A grow operation could only take up 100 square feet. 

City Council member Bruce Stahlman questioned whether grow operations should be approved by city’s inspectors due to the potential hazards. City Manager Michael Penny responded that the ordinances were meant more for enforcement and educational purposes. 

“We don’t expect people to be coming forward for permits to say, ‘I’m going to grow in my house,’ ” Penny said. “We can go in after the fact and say, ‘You need to fix this and bring it up to code,’ but this doesn’t require them to come in.”

The city’s Community Development Department is working on a pamphlet for prospective home growers to provide them with the city’s requirements.   


Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine.