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Washington State May Finally Legalize Growing Pot at Home

Could 2020 be the year this happens?

W ashington was the first state to legalize recreational pot, but it is also one of the only states with recreational pot that outlaws growing pot at home. Could that end in 2020?

“I think we have the best shot we’ve ever had,” said John Kingsbury, a cannabis advocate. “I think we’re playing on a different field this year. Instead of me reaching out to people, I’ve had legislative staff reach out to me. That’s a noticeable difference.”

Kingsbury would know—he’s spent years in Olympia trying to convince lawmakers to give adults the right to grow a few pot plants at home.

Ten states and the District of Columbia have followed Washington’s lead and legalized recreational pot, but in all almost of those places, from California to Massachusetts, adults have also been given the right to grow a few plants at home. Washington is one of the few places you must get doctor’s approval first.

Three of our state’s most badass lawmakers—Senator Bob Hasegawa, Senator Rebecca Saldaña, and Representative Cindy Ryu—sponsored legislation last year that would give every adult the right to grow up to six pot plants at home.

Unfortunately, their bill failed. To find out who will help push the bill to the finish line this year, I reached out to all 21 Seattle-area lawmakers. In addition to the three who proposed the law, eight lawmakers told me they support homegrows: Representative Joe Fitzgibbon, Representative Eric Pettigrew, Representative Nicole Macri, Representative Gerry Pollet, Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos, Senator Joe Nguyen, Senator Reuven Carlyle, and Senator David Frockt.

Only one lawmaker responded to say they don’t support homegrows. Representative Lauren Davis, whose district includes a small portion of North Seattle, said she doesn’t support legislation “that increases access to drugs.” Earth to Davis—growing pot at home is significantly more difficult than visiting any of the pot shops in your district with easy access to drugs!

Nine other senators and representatives never responded to my request, which means we need to call, e-mail, and nag them: Representative Steve Bergquist, Representative Zack Hudgins, Representative Eileen Cody, Representative Noel Frame, Representative Gael Tarleton, Representative Frank Chopp, Representative Javier Valdez, Senator Jesse Salomon, and Senator Jamie Pedersen.

Nguyen said one reason homegrow legalization struggles is because lawmakers often “focus on how we can criminalize things.” Nguyen, whose district includes West Seattle, Vashon Island, and Burien, said: “If you’re worried about people taking advantage of the system by growing seven plants instead of six, why don’t you focus on what the outcome is and how you can help people?”

Macri, whose district includes Capitol Hill, said if it’s legal to make beer at home, it should be legal to grow a few pot plants. She also said some medical patients “can’t get what they need because there’s just not a market for those products. So for that, I think homegrow is one good option that would provide help.”

The homegrow bill’s first stop is the Commerce & Gaming Committee in the state house, which is chaired by Representative Strom Peterson. He told me that he supports the bill and thinks it has a good chance when the legislative session convenes in January.

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“I have every intention of hearing the bill, but I am only one vote,” Peterson said. “But I think there’s a lot of legitimate need and desire out there to have a reasonable homegrow opportunity for people. So I look at it positively.”

It won’t be long before we know if 2020 is the year Washington finally becomes the newest state to give adults the right to grow pot at home. The legislative session ends in March.

Could 2020 be the year this happens?

Home Grow Regulatory Options

Sec. 24. (1) The state liquor and cannabis board must conduct a study of regulatory options for the legalization of marijuana plant possession and cultivation by recreational marijuana users. In conducting the study, the state liquor and cannabis board must consider the federal guidelines provided by the Cole memorandum, issued by the United States department of justice on August 29, 2013, which allows individual states to implement marijuana legalization policies, provided such states enact strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that address public safety, public health, and law enforcement concerns as outlined in the memorandum.

(2) Not later than December 1, 2017, the state liquor and cannabis board must provide the appropriate committees of the legislature written findings and recommendations regarding the adoption and implementation of a regulatory and enforcement system for the legalization of marijuana plant possession and cultivation by recreational marijuana users, in light of the guidelines set forth in the federal Cole memorandum.

(3) The study, findings, and recommendations required under this section must be done through the use of the existing resources of the state liquor and cannabis board.

Home Grow Regulatory Options

1. Strictly Regulated Recreational Home Grows

  • Allow recreational home grows under a strict state regulatory framework that requires a permit and tracking of plants throughout the state, with enforcement jurisdiction shared between the WSLCB and local authorities.
  • Absent a permit, growing marijuana for any purpose is illegal.
  • Require tracking of all plants in the traceability system to help prevent diversion.
  • Limit of no more than 4 plants per household.
  • Include a statutory provision that allows law enforcement to seize and destroy all plants possessed by a person if the person has more plants than the law allows.
  • Include a statutory provision to allow recreational growers to acquire plants from licensed producers so long as the person possesses a valid permit.
  • Include requirements for security, preventing youth access, preventing diversion, etc.
  • Include the same restrictions that apply to medical marijuana patients on processing marijuana in recreational home grows (no extraction with combustible materials. See WAC 314-55-430).

2. State Framework, Local Authority Recreational Home Grows

  • Allow recreational home grows under a regulatory framework based on statewide standards set in statute, but authorized, controlled, and enforced by local jurisdictions (counties, cities).
  • Include statutory requirements for security, preventing youth access, preventing diversion, etc. (Cole Memo).
  • Require a permit to possess plants. Absent a permit, growing marijuana for any purpose is illegal.
  • Limit of no more than 4 plants per household.
  • Include a statutory provision to allow recreational growers to acquire plants from licensed producers so long as the person possesses a valid permit.
  • Include a statutory provision that allows law enforcement to seize and destroy all plants possessed by a person if the person has more plants than the law allows.
  • Include the same restrictions that apply to medical marijuana patients on processing marijuana in recreational home grows (no extraction with combustible materials. See WAC 314-55-430).
  • The Legislature may choose to allow local jurisdictions to “opt-in” for or “opt-out” of allowing recreational home grows, similar to the approach the Legislature took with marijuana licenses and registered medical marijuana patient cooperative grows.

3. Prohibit Recreational Home Grows.

  • Do not allow recreational home grows. Maintain current status.
  • A regulated market is in place and widely available throughout the state.
  • Home grows for medical purposes, including cooperatives, are currently allowed under state law.
  • Allowing recreational home grows may provide a cover for the illicit market. This has been seen in other states that permit home grows for both medical and recreational purposes.
  • Recreational home grows may contribute to diversion, youth access, etc., primary considerations under the guidelines set in the Cole Memo.

Home Grow Regulatory Options Sec. 24. (1) The state liquor and cannabis board must conduct a study of regulatory options for the legalization of marijuana plant possession and cultivation by