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  Volume No. 10 Issue No. 8 August 2014  

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Feature Stories
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  The grower next door
  By Jason Gray

   The characteristic green cross symbol has identified medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado since 2000. However, residents with a “green” thumb and a medical marijuana prescription card or a desire for recreational use can also grow marijuana plants on their own properties.
   Keeping up with the Joneses’ gardens could mean “jonesing” for munchies after weeding the wrong garden beds. Amendment 20, the November 2000 medical marijuana ballot initiative, allowed Colorado residents, with a prescription, to grow up to six marijuana plants. Amendment 64 expanded that to almost all adult residents who want to grow for recreational use.
   Hydroponics supply companies and popular culture images of large cannabis growing warehouses suggest that growing usable marijuana requires thousands of dollars of equipment. Grow lights, fans, carbon dioxide canisters, portable greenhouses and watering systems are available at numerous storefront businesses throughout the Pikes Peak Region. However, a simple raised bed in the back yard is sufficient to grow enough pot to deal with her chronic arthritis pain, said one El Paso County resident.
   “Susan,” who wanted to be identified by her first name only because her employer has policies against off-duty medical marijuana use, has a doctor-issued MMJ prescription card. She is able to grow and process her legal six plants without any comment from neighbors and visitors. “I used to have to buy these giant bottles of Advil and go through easily 3,000 per year,” Susan said. “Since I started using medical cannabis, I’ve been able to stop using Advil and other painkillers.”
   Startup costs and time maintaining the plants needs to be weighed against the expense of purchasing the prepared product from the dispensaries. “Starting up for me cost about $300 or so,” Susan said. “You also can control what varieties you have. Your pain may build up resistance to certain varieties, so you can swap them out and it stays effective.”
   Losing plants to newbie mistakes can add to the cost of backyard grows. “When we first got them, we didn’t know you had to season them,” Susan said. “But luckily I had friends who had grown themselves, so I had a mentor who was able to give me hints. If you can find someone to walk you through it, it helps a lot.” Outside grows can save the medical or recreational grower a substantial amount of money. Grow lights that emit the correct light frequencies are expensive and use a lot of electricity, Susan said. “Doing it outside is much, much cheaper. I wouldn’t have been able to afford the electricity.” Susan grows enough crops in the summer to get through the winter.
   Amendment 64 requires that personal grow operations take place in “a locked, enclosed space,” which has been interpreted differently by various city and county governments. Colorado’s Amendment 64 task force said in its 2013 final report that the space should be “secured at all points of ingress and egress with a locking mechanism to limit access, such as a key or combination lock.” Growing cannot be conducted openly or publicly. If a neighbor is able to look unaided into a backyard and see the marijuana plants, then it is considered open and public, according to the task force.
   Processing the plants into a usable product also has to be done out of sight and in a secured area. It’s also an exact process that needs to happen at an exact time, Susan said. “It’d definitely time consuming and the time frame is short,” she said. “You have to get it trimmed and hung to dry. The hardest thing is finding someplace secure but away from the house to hang it. It gets quite fragrant. In general, you have to be cautious. If you’re out there pulling weeds and such, the scent can get on your clothes.”
   Despite the costs and time commitment, Susan said it has been vital to her in managing her symptoms in a cost effective manner. “It’s one of the best things Colorado could have ever done,” she said. “It blows me away that this is having such a hard time with the legalization birthing pains, compared to alcohol.”


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