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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Is Your Neighborhood Going to Pot (Literally)? How Much Worse Will It Get?

Recently I heard a report that over 1,000 homes in Colorado have been transformed into grow houses for marijuana, and I know from my real estate work that it is becoming a serious problem for subdivisions and home owners and for buyers and sellers.

I have also been told that there’s a shortage of industrial buildings because of grow operations consuming all the available listings.

Industrial operations are one thing, but when individual homes are made into grow houses, the consequences can be serious both for that home and for the neighborhood.

Grow operations require lots of electricity (for lighting) and lots of water for irrigation. Each of these pose their own threats. If the electricity is not installed professionally, it could result in fires.  And there is almost no way to avoid the growth of mold, including toxic mold, when you dramatically increase the humidity within a house.

Lastly, the smell of the plants infuses a house and is as hard to remove as tobacco smoke.

Neighbors become aware immediately of a grow operation because of the distinctive odor being emitted from the house.  Another common complaint is the noise emitted by industrial ventilation systems in many installations.

 The situation has grown serious enough that the Denver division of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) published a four-page document in June 2016 with the title, “Residential Marijuana Grows in Colorado: The New Meth Houses?”  The 2-paragraph Executive Summary reads as follows: 

“Colorado’s state laws legalizing marijuana do not limit how much marijuana can be grown within a private residence.  Further, there is no mechanism at the state-level to document or regulate home grows, even large ones. This has led to a proliferation of large-scale marijuana grow operations in hundreds of homes throughout the state. Much of the marijuana produced in large home grows is shipped out of Colorado and sold in markets where it commands a high price.
“Although growing a large number of marijuana plants within private residences can fall within the parameters of state law, it presents  potential risk to the occupants, homeowners, and neighbors of these residences, as well as to first responders who are called to them. Marijuana grows often cause extensive damage to the houses where they are maintained and are increasingly the causes of house fires, blown electrical transformers, and environmental damage.  Much like the meth houses of the 1990s, many of these homes may ultimately be rendered uninhabitable.”
Although the State Constitution allows any adult over 21 to grow up to 6 plants — each of which can produce a pound of marijuana every 90 days — it has a loophole which states that any citizen can assist another citizen in growing their 6 plants, making it nearly impossible to prosecute someone who is in fact growing hundreds of plants.

What is the outlook in coming years?  The final paragraph of the DEA report paints a distressing picture: 

“Adding to the list of unintended consequences of marijuana legalization in Colorado, the proliferation of large residential grows is taxing local police and fire departments, consuming power and water resources, and potentially affecting home values in communities throughout the state.  Further, the ability to establish large-scale marijuana grow operations within residential homes under the guise of state law will likely continue to attract drug traffickers and criminal organizations. Thus, Colorado will continue to be a source for much of the marijuana destined for markets in other states.”
I have put a link for this document online at  It’s worth reading.  [Here's that link:]

Published Sept. 15, 2016, in the YourHub section of the Denver Post and in four Jefferson County weekly newspapers.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jim,
    I am a Realtor specializing in homes that are suited for cultivation of cannabis and organic farming. While I usually find your columns in the Hub accurate and informative, today's column was misleading and contained much incorrect information.

    Using the DEA's article is inherently presenting a negative view of cannabis and those who grow it. The DEA has a skin in the game in keeping cannabis illegal. Quoting from that agency is like relying on a car dealership to decide if light rail is viable. In my work I see the benefit of cannabis for many people, most of whom are employed, tax-paying, citizens simply trying to find a way to relieve pain or anxiety without traditional pharmaceuticals. By far, most home growers are anxious to follow the law and live in a safe place.

    My clients choose me because I can help them sell their property with an existing grow space or find a property that is suitable for home cultivation. I urge them to move to homes with some land around them to alleviate some of the problems that a home grow may present. I show homes that are not in HOA communities. If the home is on less than .25 acres, I direct them to odor filtration systems companies. During inspection, we pay special attention to the electrical needs of the home. Don't you also insist that your clients electrical panels are up to code? A good Realtor will direct her clients to properties that fit their needs. That includes places where the owner can be a good neighbor.

    You mention that mold is inevitable when there is a grow in the home, but that is blatantly false. I have seen hundreds of grow rooms. The only mold problem I have seen is in one basement grow room that had a wall covering over a leaky exterior wall. Cannabis growers are generally very knowledgeable on the environment of their grow rooms. They will buy the dehumidifiers, filters, and other equipment to guarantee their harvest iand their grow room are healthy before any sign of mold appears. You mention that the home can be be rendered uninhabitable by a cannabis grow. That is truly a lie. I have sold homes that have had many plants growing for many years. Washing the walls and painting them removes every indication of a prior grow. I have also sold homes of cigarette smokers and cat lovers, which present a real problem in odor mitigation. To compare cannabis cultivation with meth is a joke, and greatly cuts into your believability.

    State law allows six plants per individual (12 per household of two adults or more) without any licensing. Doctors can prescribe up to 99 plants to be grown per medical marijuana patient. A licensed caregiver can grow the plants that patients are allowed IF THEIR MUNICIPALITY APPROVES THAT PLANT COUNT. In Denver the maximum allowable plant count is 36; in most other cities in the state, twelve plants is the allowable count. While six or twelve plants seem like a lot, some people who grow process the plant into tinctures, oils and edibles, which use a lot of cannabis in the production.

    While the risk of illegal grows may be higher, our laws, including Amendment 64, represent the will of Colorado citizens (and that includes real estate clients.) Since its passage, Colorado has seen a great downturn in the use of opioids, which are presenting a major problem in states where cannabis use and cultivation is treated as a crime. Violent crime and fatal accidents are down. Our schools are benefiting from additional funding. Teenage cannabis use is down. Colorado is leading the way on responsible cannabis use and should be celebrated for its sane approach to legalization. Quoting the DEA is contrary to the reality of the situation.

    I am proud of my specialty and of the people I help. I present a non-judgemental real estate experience for the hundreds of buyers and sellers who are simply seeking to obey the law and avoid dangerous drugs. I am sorry your company does not.

    Rona Hanson
    Need Room to Grow Realty