LEE’S SUMMIT, MO (KCTV) — Investigators believe the cause of a house fire where first responders discovered two small marijuana growing operations to be electrical.
Neighbors near the house on Northeast Ivory Lane and Mulberry Avenue smelled smoke and called 911 around 4 AM on Sunday.
When firefighters got inside, they found a marijuana growing operation in the basement near where the fire seems to have started, and another on the main level of the house.
Lee’s Summit Police initially launched an investigation, but quickly closed it after learning the man living in the home had a license to cultivate medical marijuana in the home.
Neighbors in the area were not surprised to hear about the marijuana grow.
“That wasn’t surprising because the kid had a lot of vehicle traffic in and out of his house. People would pull up and go in and out,” a neighbor who only wanted to be identified as Randy said.
Neighbors say man in his 20’s rents the house. KCTV5 was unable to reach the homeowner.
Randy said he even saw a person leave the house with a marijuana plant once in broad daylight. Since the operation was so blatant, he always assumed it must be legal.
“He was not trying to hide it. So we just figured he’s got to have a license. He got a truck and put security cameras up. So we just assumed he’s probably legal caregiver,” Randy said.
In Missouri, medical marijuana patients, or caretakers of patients, can apply for a license to cultivate marijuana on their own. The limit per patient is six flowering plants, six younger unflowering plants, and six cloned plants. Caretakers can grow for someone else and themselves if they are also a patient.
The limit for one home cultivation site is for two patients, or a patient/caretaker. So, 54 is the legal limit for medical marijuana plants to be grown in a home.
But it seems, no entity is proactively enforcing that regulation.
Lee’s Summit Police Sergeant Chris Depue said medical marijuana is still uncharted territory for the police department. Officers only received two hours of training on the topic and did not get any additional funding or staffing to address the matter, so it’s not high on their list of priorities.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Service’s Medical Marijuana Section has the authority to investigate home cultivation sites and revoke the licenses of those found violating the regulations, but they leave criminal investigations up to law enforcement.
Lyndall Franker, director of Medical Marijuana Regulation in Missouri, sent us the following statement:
Per the constitutional amendment passed by Missouri voters in 2018, individuals may be licensed to grow medical marijuana if they are an approved medical marijuana patient. Caregivers of such patients may also be authorized to grow on the patient’s behalf. There are limits, however, to how much medical marijuana can be grown for a patient. We provide education and assistance to law enforcement on how to know whether a particular individual is growing more than they are authorized to grow, and we are specifically allowed to confirm to law enforcement that a person who claims to be an authorized patient or authorized cultivator is in fact authorized in the ways they claim. In cases where it is reported that an individual is growing more than authorized, the Department will investigate and has authority to revoke that authorization temporarily or permanently if the patient or caregiver is not in compliance with the Department’s rules. However, our authority is limited to these administrative actions; law enforcement officials and the courts maintain authority to determine whether there have been violations of criminal law.
So far in Missouri, 24,772 patients and caretakers have been granted licenses to cultivate plants. Less than 25% of the applications for home cultivation across the state have been accepted.
The state does not recommend where those patients and caretakers who do get approved get their initial seeds from.
Sergeant Depue says home cultivation sites are impossible to enforce regulation on. Even if the home that started the fire had more plants than legally allowed, he doesn’t think a prosecutor would take the case.
The weak regulation doesn’t seem to concern Randy.
“I see it as being harmless. You’re not making meth, you’re not doing cocaine or anything like that. It’s pot, it’s not a big deal. Especially if you medically need it,” Randy said.
<a href=”https://health.mo.gov/safety/medical-marijuana/pdf/patient-caregiver-home-cultivation-apps.pdf” target=”_blank”>Patient, Patient Cultivation, Caregiver & Caregiver Cultivation Applications Received by Month</a>
<a href=”https://health.mo.gov/safety/medical-marijuana/faqs-patient.php#cultivation” target=”_blank”>Patient FAQs</a>