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The Battle For Home Grows Wages On

February 26, 2018 @ 1:43PM

Washington was the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Yes, Colorado legalized it the same night and took all the press for the next 6 years, but few people realize that Washington’s law actually went into effect sooner, allowing residents to possess up to an ounce of marijuana within 1 month of the law’s passing

Since then, we’ve lived through the growing pains of a brand new industry starting from scratch; we watched as Colorado’s retail stores opened their doors well before any pot shops were open in Washington, and we groaned throughout the first 2 years of legalization when the prices after tax were too steep compared to the medical dispensaries and black market dealers we had become accustomed to. Fast forward to 2018— six years after I502 was passed— and we now have the cheapest weed in the United States, attributed to a surplus of cannabis production from 1,100 licensed producers.

As a consumer, I’m thankful we have the most affordable herb in the nation, but Washington is still the only recreational state that doesn’t allow its residents to grow their own cannabis (registered medical patients are permitted to grow between 6 and 15 plants, but recreational home grows are still illegal). For context, all the other recreational states— Colorado, Oregon, California, and so on— had home grows baked into their legalization bills. Most recently, the state of Vermont went the opposite route, legalizing recreational home grows outright before even working on a regulated system for retail sales and commercial cultivation; this is similar to the measure that citizens of Washington D.C. voted into law in 2015.

Thankfully, Washington state legislators are reconsidering the ban on home cultivation.

Following the passing of ESSB 5131 in 2017, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) was directed to study regulatory options for recreational marijuana home grows, and instructed to present their findings and recommendations by December 1, 2017. The WSLCB came back with 3 options for regulators to consider:

  1. Strictly regulated recreational homegrows,
  2. A state framework with local authority for recreational home grows, or, to no-one’s surprise...
  3. Continue prohibiting home grows.

When we heard about WSLCB’s three recommendations in December, some people (self included) assumed that their first 2 recommendations were lip service that would end up falling on deaf ears anyhow. There is a glimmer of hope, however, as a bill allowing nonmedical home cultivation of cannabis (HB 2559) passed the House committee on January 16 and has been ready to move on to the finance committee since January 18. In an article dated January 26, local cannabis activist Vivian McPeak claimed that "Rep. Kristine Lytton said the Finance committee is too busy to hear HB 2559, even though the house has already passed a capital budget,” and suggested trying again next year. The “maybe next year” sentiment regarding home cultivation has become far too commonplace over the last few years.

The passing of HB 2559 would allow Washington residents to grow up to 6 cannabis plants in their home and possess up to 24 ounces of home grown bud (that’s 1.5 pounds of weed per household). Of course, the bill has a provision that enables property owners to ban cannabis cultivation by renters or lessees.

Opponents of the bill cite concerns that home grows would increase access to youths, as well as a worry that the smell would be too pungent. Regarding odor, my mind immediately goes to my neighbor down the hall who loves to cook fish in his apartment on a regular basis; I don’t care for the pungent smell, but I know it’s just a temporary annoyance before I’m inside my own apartment, so I would never complain about it to my neighbor, my landlord, or my state representative (also because it’s none of my damn business how my neighbor chooses to live his life, but I digress). 

The concern about increased youth access to cannabis is legitimate, as there wouldn’t be anyone checking IDs in private homes. As with edibles, pharmaceuticals, alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and laundry pods, it would be the responsibility of adults to keep their home grown buds in a locked container where teens can’t get to it. Interestingly enough, data collected by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows that teen marijuana use in Colorado—which, again, had home grows from the beginning—are actually below national averages, but this can likely be attributed to the retail framework (it probably has nothing to do with home grows).

As of now it’s too early to tell how far the home grow bill will get, but if the right to grow your own cannabis is as important to you as it is to us, we encourage you to reach out to our leaders and politely request that they move this bill along:

Representative Kristine Lytton

  • 40th Legislative District- Represents San Juan, and part of Skagit and Whatcom counties including Anacortes, Burlington, and part of Bellingham and Mount Vernon.
  • 368 John L. O’Brien Building, Olympia, WA 98504
  • (360) 786-7800
  • Talking point: Bring HB 2559 in Finance Committee to hearing and vote

Senator Karen Keiser

  • 33rd Legislative District- Represents part of King County including SeaTac, Des Moines, Normandy Park, and part of Kent, Burien and Renton.
  • 219 John A. Cherberg Building, Olympia, WA 98504
  • (360) 786-7664
  • Talking point: Bring SB 6284 in Labor & Commerce Committee to hearing and vote

Governor Jay Inslee

  • (360) 902-4111
  • Talking point: I’m not afraid of the feds and you shouldn’t be either; when the time comes, please sign HB 2559 and SB 6284 to legalize home grows

Article by Ramsey Doudar; an in-house marketing and social media strategist at Herbn Elements. Ramsey's perspective is influenced by 1.5 years of budtending, 5 years as a cannabis industry marketing professional, and 10+ years of being a super picky medical patient.