Big changes looming for medical marijuana industry Patients may be Forced to use Dispensaries for Cannabis Purchases- By Rick Langenberg

The reins may be placed on the once booming Colorado medical marijuana industry, starting this week.
Under new regulations, medicinal marijuana caregivers in Colorado can only grow 99 plants, representing a dramatic decrease from the previous limit of close to 500. This may impact large medicinal cannabis grow hubs by caregivers. Plus, caregivers must document their operations more, if they grow more than 36 plants.
With the new change, law officers may increase enforcement efforts in certain rural areas, especially in parts of El Paso County, according to local media reports. However, the new law shouldn’t have too much effect on home-grown marijuana, with a limit of 12 plants per residence. It’s not clear if the changes will have much of an impact in Teller County, which doesn’t have that many medical marijuana patients compared to other counties.
Enforcement, though, could definitely be on the rise, with more scrutiny regarding caregiver licenses. Signs are expected to be installed this month, warning residents of the new limits on marijuana plants. The new rules also would give law officers more latitude in doing pot-related patrols and in responding to complaints.
Another aspect of the law requires caregivers that grow more than 36 plants to register their grow location, the patient numbers and any extended plant controls.
The rules are part of a state Senate bill passed in the 2015 legislative session, with the start-up date set for Jan. 1, 2017.
A big debate still persists over the merits of the change.
Marijuana advocates cite this as a way to heavily restrict medicinal cannabis for needy patients. They claim their health could be at risk, with different forms of marijuana required to meet their needs.
Critics, including many law officers, say the current limit is way too high already. They believe the new regulations will help regulate an industry that is out of control and further put a clamp on illegal grow operations. According to law officers, a number of huge grow operations aren’t legitimate and are disguising themselves as caregiver outlets.
The end result is that more patients may have to use marijuana dispensaries, which could provide a slight business boom for medicinal and retail marijuana businesses in the area. The Pikes Peak region abounds with a hefty assortment of medicinal marijuana dispensaries. However, few retail outlets are permitted, except for in Manitou Springs. But these businesses abound in Pueblo and Denver.
This trend of restricting home-grown marijuana outlets is already in motion throughout the state. A number of cities and counties in Colorado have already started enacting rules that permit them to impose stricter plant-growing rules at households than what state regulations dictate.
The current fate of both the medical and recreational marijuana industry is up in the air with the election of Donald Trump as the nation’s next president. Trump has appointed Alabama senator Jeff Sessions as his new Attorney General. Sessions is considered a staunch opponent of the marijuana industry, saying that good people don’t smoke pot.
But with close to 30 states now permitting the use of medicinal marijuana operations and a handful entering the recreational pot arena, it’s unclear how much power he can really wield. And local government officials aren’t too upset about the revenue generated from the industry.

Cripple Creek expected to scrutinize marijuana rules shortly

As a result, some local cities and Colorado counties may consider reviewing their current marijuana regulations, in lieu of competitive threats from other areas. The city of Cripple Creek, which has had a staunch rivalry with its gaming rivals north of Denver, may consider plans to permit retail marijuana, as a new revenue source. Several recreational marijuana outlets are located in the Central City/Black Hawk area.
Plans have been proposed for a cannabis club model in Cripple Creek by Colorado Springs resident Dr. John Jones. Plus, in an earlier meeting in November, Councilman Chris Hazlett suggested that the elected leaders consider amending their rules to permit possible retail marijuana outlets on a limited basis.
Several council members have cited the pending marijuana situation as one of the town’s top issues for 2017 (see related story).
The subject of retail marijuana in Cripple Creek has received much coverage in The Mountain Jackpot newspaper in recent weeks. In addition, Channel Five news aired a detailed piece on the topic last week.
This issue is expected to be discussed again by the council in the early part of 2017. It is not scheduled, though for discussion on the Jan. 4 meeting, the council’s kick-off session for 2017.
Prohibitions against marijuana have been approved in all municipalities and in the county. But In some cases, these restrictions only were passed by a single tally.