7News Special Report: Legalization Loophole

WINCHENDON, Mass. (WHDH) — Pot plants are now legally sprouting inside homes across Massachusetts. But police in Colorado are warning that people growing pot at home is a major problem there.

And 7News discovered a single word in our state’s marijuana law could prove to be a sinister seed.

Nestled against the New Hampshire border, and just a block from the Winchendon Police Station, Charlie Keith walked 7News up to his attic to show off one of the state’s first legal, recreational pot grows inside a home. He even proudly posted a copy of his driver’s license right on the grow room door.

“I take 100 percent responsibility for what’s behind this door,” Keith said.

Inside two closets, three seeds – planted just after legalization – are protected by a multi-camera security system.

“I’m expecting about a pound-and-a-half,” Keith said of the amount of marijuana he expects to grow. About one month later, the bud was budding.

Keith told 7News that he was convicted on drug charges, including intention to distribute, several years ago. But he insisted his cannabis crop will not be for sale — but his services are.

“I’m trying to satisfy the average pothead,” Keith said.

He’s capitalizing via Craigslist. Once marijuana home growing was legalized, Keith posted an ad on the website: For $150, he’ll set up a marijuana grow room in your home.

Keith said when people contact him in response to the ad, “They ask if I’m a cop.”

And police in Colorado say it doesn’t take long for the seemingly innocent to turn invasive.

“Very few people in Colorado knew what was coming,” said Pueblo County Colo. Sheriff Kirk Taylor.

Taylor’s deputies have been busting pot grows inside homes all across Pueblo County in southern Colorado. They discovered dozens of massive – and therefore, illegal – grows just last year.

“It’s extremely widespread,” Taylor said.

And a Drug Enforcement Administration report released last June asked whether marijuana home grows in Colorado have become “the new meth houses.” It highlighted an explosion of “large-scale marijuana grow operations in hundreds of homes,” with most of the pot “shipped out of Colorado” by “traffickers.”

“We’ve arrested people from New York state, 17 Cubans from Florida in all different raids,” Taylor said.

Like Massachusetts, Colorado bans any person from growing more than six plants inside their home. But the DEA points to a line in Colorado’s law which allows anyone to “assist” others with marijuana growing – a potential loophole that could protect someone who wants to grow hundreds of plants at home.

7News found the same language in the Massachusetts law.

“I really hoped that what we’ve done here in Pueblo is driving this narrative to try to close these loopholes in states like Massachusetts and Maine before they get exploited by organized crime,” Taylor said.

When asked about concerns that home growing of marijuana could grow out of control, Keith replied, “I would say monitor it closely.”

But our state’s law says nothing about monitoring or inspecting marijuana grown at home. That means for now, most will stay secret, under lock and key.

Yes on 4, the group which led the fight to legalize pot in Massachusetts, dismisses such concerns as wildly exaggerated because unlike Colorado, Massachusetts caps the number of plants per household at 12 and does not allow groups of people to grow collectively in cooperatives.

Still, a special Senate committee in our state recommended banning any growing of pot at home last year, or at least requiring anyone who does so to register.

Lawmakers are eyeing several potential changes to the law this year, including possibly lowering the number of plants allowed per household.

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