When legal pot first went on sale in Colorado early last year, bureaucrats were worried that cultivators might be too motivated to grow weed. In the past, medical growers operated under cultivation caps that limited the number of patients for whom they could grow, and officials feared production would explode if those caps were removed for recreational weed.
Officials apparently went too far when they opted to leave the caps in place. Now the state has a major marijuana shortfall, and an ounce of grass is selling for more than $500 in some places.
That’s not good news. It means that many Coloradans are still getting their weed from the black market or from medical dispensaries, where an ounce typically sells for less than $300.
Now, authorities are considering revisions to the rules that could allow farmers to grow more pot. The changes are coming in anticipation of a new crop of cannabis entrepreneurs entering the market this year.
First recreational sellers converted MMJ dispensaries
The first business owners who were licensed by the state to sell recreational marijuana converted their stores from existing MMJ dispensaries. The new providers will be coming from outside the medical pot industry.
At a hearing Aug. 2, industry lobbyists supported the revisions and said they would alleviate market problems like the shortfall of weed.
“Colorado is responsible for making sure marijuana doesn’t go out of state,” said Mike Elliott, head of the Marijuana Industry Group. “That’s a big responsibility.”
The new rules wouldn’t necessarily mean a greater volume of pot production statewide, but they allow cultivators to add more plants if they can prove they’re selling at least 85 percent of their inventory.
New rules only help large-scale growers
Not everyone is happy about the proposal, though. Some small-scale marijuana growers complained at the hearing that the new rules would only help big producers. Opponents are upset about one rule in particular, a provision allowing indoor warehouses to grow twice as much dope as greenhouses.
“This is a plant,” said Greg Duran, owner of a greenhouse consulting business. “We need to take it away from being inside under lights.”
Initially, Colorado only allowed indoor cannabis cultivation under energy-intense grow systems in warehouses. Now greenhouse grows are allowed, depending on local zoning, as are limited outdoor farms.
Opponents of the changes said they’re just a political gift to warehouse growers, one that will hurt small cultivators.
“The only person who is going to benefit is either the power companies, people who are renting warehouses, or people who have built huge growing warehouses,” said Thomas Killeen, a grower from Colorado Springs.
The new grow caps were adopted on a provisional basis in June. No vote was cast at the September hearing on whether to make the changes permanent.