SAGUACHE — On Tuesday, Saguache County Commissioners met in a work session to discuss changes to the county’s marijuana section of the Land Use regulations regarding variances granted those with medical marijuana cards to grow more than the 24 plants allowed by the State.
State law allows counties to permit a greater number of plants and Saguache has done this but abuses of the variances has forced county officials to dial back the number of allowed plants, even though prescribing physicians may recommend they grow 50-75 plants on their property.
During their July 2 meeting, Saguache County Commissioners passed a resolution imposing a medical marijuana plant count moratorium as an emergency measure “to preserve the public health, safety, and welfare, [which] shall take effect immediately.”
According to minutes from the June 25 meeting, commissioners approved plant count variances for individuals who now appear to have a total of 300 variances primarily in Lazy KV Estates, a popular medical marijuana growing area. In the minutes, Land Use Administrator Wendi Maze reported that there are several more variances pending for the same landowner and same area, but it is not known if these requests had any bearing on the commissioners’ decision to declare a moratorium.
Following the legalization of retail sales and cultivation of marijuana in 2000, the Colorado State Legislature enacted House Bill 17-1220 in 2017 which placed a 24-plant-count limit on growing medical marijuana on any residential parcel in the State.
In its variance moratorium declaration, the BoCC expressed the desire to “fully and fairly consider all actual and potential impacts to the citizens and environment that have been and will be caused by the continued issuance of medical variances permitting more than twenty-four (24) medical marijuana plants to be grown on parcels of property within unincorporated Saguache County.”
Discussion Tuesday immediately focused on returning to the state standard to solve the problem. Interim County Administrator Wendi Maez opened the meeting by suggesting the county limit the number of plants to 12 “regardless of what their physician says.” Maez reported that one doctor advises his patients they can grow 75 plants and above nearly all the time while the other two doctors issuing marijuana cards advise 34-37 plants.
Commissioner Jason Anderson agreed, saying he had seen a lot of those asking for variances do so to take advantage of the system. But he added there also are those who genuinely need the extra plants, and these people must be considered as well.
Commissioners agreed state law is often confusing and contradictory and does not always offer clear guidelines.
The final proposed revision of the variance regulation reads: “Variances may be applied for with the Board of County Commissioners reviewing for final approval. If the request is for over the allowed 12-plant count, the total number of plants requested is not to exceed 24 per parcel.”
Those making the request must also present proof of a viable water source and sewage disposal system. All marijuana variance requests must also follow all existing marijuana regulations. Commissioners will put the revised regulation to a vote at a future meeting.
Section 30-28-121 Colorado Revised Statutes grants to the Board the authority to impose a moratorium for a period not to exceed six months, without a public hearing… pending the adoption of appropriate regulations to address the impacts of such land uses.