Law enforcement will soon change the way they respond to indoor marijuana grows, treating them in some of the same ways as meth labs, after a new investigation finds a number of health hazards associated with the grows.
The study looked at 30 marijuana grow operations, each one containing between 11 and 60 plants. Researchers found extremely high levels of mold; in some cases, there were more than 100-times outdoor-mold levels.
The levels can be dangerous to law enforcement called to take apart the grow systems after an arrest, but doctors say, even more dangerous to children living in the area.
"Due to the fact that there is so much water and fertilizers and chemicals, and so you end up with just phenomenal mold growth,” said Dr. John Martyny, who led a team that investigated the dangers involved with an indoor marijuana grow. "Kids are definitely at far more danger than adults are going into these situations, and typically what you'd have is you'd have a kid actually living in the situation."
Dr. Martyny said the greatest risk is to those in the actual residence, but that mold spores can spread through ventilation systems, meaning people in apartment buildings could also be exposed.
"I'd be extremely mad. I'd probably go down there and say something, because my kids' health is more important than people getting high," said Amanda Stanley, a mother of two, who has lived in an apartment building where she says a grow may have taken place.
But what Stanley said makes her most worried about pot grows is the electrical hazard that can go along with them because of poorly wired lights combined with irrigation for the plants.
“It's scary to know that people who don't understand all that do it without thinking, so your kids are just in danger and you don't even know," Stanley said.
Because of the risks, Dr. Martyney has new recommendations for first responders who come in contact with the grows, from chemical resistant gloves and boots, to full- face masks with air purifiers.
Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey was in Denver for Martyney's presentation Monday, and he said even though there will be new regulations in place to protect his deputies, he's most concerned with the people living near a grow.
"The thing that keeps me awake at night though is we can make policies to protect ourselves, and practices, but what about those environments like inside of a residential neighborhood where there is a kid present in the home?" Hilkey said. "What if your apartment is in an apartment building, you know the people that live next door didn't sign up to be exposed to this."
Sheriff Hilkey said he's concerned with the new findings because of Amendment 64, because if it gets passed into law, people would have the constitutional right to have a grow in their home. The sheriff says it raises public policy questions that haven't even been talked about yet.
Doctors say mold from marijuana grows could cause respiratory problems, including asthma in kids, that would stay with them forever.