Brighton City Council mulls homegrown marijuana limits

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City police, fire, building officials concerned with finding right approach to residential growers

By Crystal Nelson

BRIGHTON — Brighton officials are considering new limits on residents growing marijuana in their homes.

The proposed amendment was among the top topics during council’s May 27 meeting.


Community Development Director Holly Prather said Amendment 64 allows for the cultivation of up to six marijuana plants per adult, as long as three or fewer plants are mature at any given time. She said Amendment 64 does not change the state’s medical marijuana laws (Amendment 20), which allows patients with a medical marijuana card to possess not more than six plants, with three or fewer being mature plants.

“You could have one person living in a residential home within Brighton growing up to 12 marijuana plants — six recreational and if they have the primary caregiver card, they could have another six for medical,” Prather said, explaining that there could be more marijuana plants grown in the house depending on the number of adults in the house.

She said that 12 plants in 75 square feet, grown utilizing the screen green technique, could yield eight pounds of marijuana – or enough legal ounce-or-less possession for 128 people. She said city staff, police, fire, building officials and the city attorney all have concerns about health and safety in regards to marijuana being grown in homes. 

“This is going to be a major code amendment for us,” she said, adding the city will consider regulations for growing marijuana in multi-family residences, landlord and lease matters and other miscellaneous matters, such as odor, electrical hazards, inspections and enforcement abilities.

Prather also said that the city would like to come up with something that’s reasonable for residents, so the city is not restricting anyone’s rights to grow marijuana in their homes, but to do it in a way that doesn’t put themselves, their families or their neighbors at risk.

Council members expressed numerous concerns about regulating home-grown marijuana. Councilman Rex Bell said he recognized that people have the right to grow marijuana in their homes but hoped officials keep in mind the city’s obligation for health and safety and that they regulate home grown marijuana “as strictly as reasonable.”Councilwoman Lynn Baca raised concerns about how the  city would enforce the code if the city were to limit the number of marijuana plants grown in a home. 

Mayor Pro Tem Kirby Wallin said he thought six plants would be a reasonable limit but wanted to be sure the city upholds the wishes of those who voted in Colorado.

After hearing what council had to say, City Manager Manuel Esquibel suggested that the city explore how it would permit, enforce and penalize home-grown marijuana. 

“It might be helpful at this point in time to explore what other cities are doing and just do an assessment of that and bring that information back to (council),” he said. 


Electronic vaporizers

Due to the relative newness of electronic vaporizers, they’re not included in the city’s code, and Prather said that regulatory agencies and health experts don’t know the effects of the products yet and suggested they be regulated similar to tobacco.

“My professional recommendation is that it should certainly be addressed in the code in some fashion,” she said. 

Council members debated whether it should be addressed in the code under tobacco or whether a new section should be created just for e-cigarettes.

Mayor Pro Tem Kirby Wallin wanted to know whether there would be any additional regulations the city would like on e-cigarettes that wouldn’t be covered by regulating it as tobacco. Prather noted some e-cigarette stores allow customers to taste test their products because they’re flavored. Per the current tobacco regulations, smoking in buildings is prohibited. 

Councilwoman Joan Kniss noted that when they approved the conditional use application for Ace Star Vapes, they treated it as they would a tobacco establishment with conditions that smoking in the building is prohibited and customers must be at least 18 years of age. She said Prather was “right on” in developing the code amendment.

Mayor Dick McLean said the city should put it in the code under tobacco use for now and then follow events and make updates and changes as needed. 


Urban Agriculture

Members of city council voiced support of proposed code amendments that would allow residents to have up to four hens in their backyard. Prather said the city’s code currently allows up to four domestic ducks, rabbits, doves or pigeons, but doesn’t account for chickens or turkeys.

“The potential code amendment is to stay consistent with our historic use, which is allowing up to four hens per single-family residence and then maybe clarifying in the code that roosters, toms, geese, peafowl, guinea fowl and other poultry are prohibited,” she said. 

According to Prather, the code would also regulate the locations of the animals, the setbacks, the size of the coops, the runs and cleanliness.

Prather said the development department is also in the process of drafting an amendment for beekeeping. The amendment, which would pertain to the keeping of honeybees only, would allow beekeeping on single-family residential lots and regulate hive density, hive structure and design, access to a water source, queen selection, setbacks, location and flyways.

Mayor Dick McLean suggested the city consult local beekeeping expert Dave Swanson, who would be able to help her determine what ought to be allowed in the city.

According to Prather, these amendments are the first phase of amendments the city will be making to urban agriculture.

“In the future, as time permits and as staffing allows, we would like to bring other elements of urban agriculture back to you,” she said, citing addressing community gardens in the table of uses and amendments that would answer whether a resident could rip out their landscape and turn it into a garden as examples of what that second phase would include.


Contact Staff Writer Crystal Nelson by calling 303-659-2522, ext. 223, or reach her via email at cnelson@metrowestnewspapers.com.