Will these new bills push at-home cultivation toward normalization or simply create a new version of prohibition?
Washington’s Initiative 502 (I502) campaign made it one of the first states to legalize marijuana in 2012, but it was incredibly contentious. Cannabis advocates who came out in opposition to I502 said the way it was written would regulate out most of the state’s existing producers and decimate the state medical system. They also warned that the the lack of personal cultivation (home grow) rights wouldn’t be an easy fix. Six years later, a lot of these points of contention have come to bear, and advocates are still pushing the state legislature for the right to grow at home for personal use.
This is the first legislative session in post-legalization Washington State that there is bipartisan and bicameral support to change it before the session even officially begins. On Friday, January 11, Senate Bill 5155 and House Bill 1131 were pre-filed concurrently into the state legislature. Both bills are titled “Allowing residential marijuana agriculture,” and have bipartisan sponsors.
H.B. 1131 is sponsored by Rep. Brian Blake (D) — who has championed the issue in years past — along with Rep. Drew MacEwen (R), Rep. Laurie Dolan (D), Rep. Jim Walsh (R), and Rep. Shelley Kloba (D). S.B. 5155 is sponsored by Republican senator Maureen Walsh, along with Sen. Bob Hasegawa (D), Sen. Sam Hunt (D), and Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D).
While efforts in previous years have died in committees, last year Gov. Jay Inslee signed an omnibus bill that made a handful of changes to the industry and directed the Liquor Control Board (LCB), which oversees recreational marijuana, to look into regulating home grow. The bill did not actually legalize and regulate the practice, however. While Inslee has not yet commented on whether or not he would sign this specific legislation into law, it is unlikely he would oppose it if it made it to his desk.
Both the house bill and senate bill would amend current state law to allow adults over the age of 21 to grow up to six plants at home and “produce or possess” up to 16 ounces of “useable marijuana” (cannabis flower), 16 ounces of “marijuana products in solid form” (topicals and edibles), 72 ounces of liquid, and 7 grams of concentrate. There cannot be more than 15 plants in a single residence regardless of the amount of legal adults. Property owners can still prohibit their tenants from growing it, and any personal supply of homegrown flowers exceeding an ounce will need to be labeled similar to commercially produced product: the name, date of birth, and address of the grower, as well as the planting and harvest dates, must appear on the container. Home extractions must be non-combustible (ie: kief sifting and ice water hash are OK, butane hash oil is not).
In years past, some of the biggest opposition to similar legislation has come from some of the biggest licensed cannabis producers supplying the legal market, specifically the Washington CannaBusiness Association (WACA). Not all producers are in opposition, however, and are actually members of an organization supporting homegrow efforts, the Cannabis Alliance.
Advocates calling themselves Home Grow Washington (HGW) think they have a good shot at getting this through in 2019. Activist Don Skakie is part of HGW and has advocated for this issue directly in the statehouse in Olympia for the last three years, and says from initial conversations he has had this week with legislators, he is optimistic it can pass.
“It’s about making cannabis normal and regular in society. We have legalization in Washington that is just Prohibition 2.0,” Skakie said last year.
Founder and executive director of the Seattle-based Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy (CaSP), Dominic Corva, has previously argued that home cultivation should be considered a right that comes along with ending cannabis prohibition.
“The biggest evidence that cannabis legalization does not necessarily mean the end of prohibition, in Washington at least, is the fact that you can only commercially produce cannabis,” Corva said. “You can’t produce it any other way, it has to be commercial. Home grow represents something much bigger than it really is.”
Rep. Brian Blake has sponsored similar legislation three years in a row, and says he will continue to re-file home cultivation bills each session until it passes.
“I think folks should have the ability to take care of themselves,” Blake said. “I think it just doesn’t seem like folks should be forced into the state market if they want to, have the time, and want to make the effort to produce enough for their own personal use.”
Additionally, Blake has been a proponent of issues patients have had with the new medical paradigm, such as children being allowed to use medical cannabis at school. Despite the failure of previous bills, Blake is still working on it. Alongside the home cultivation bills pre-filed last Friday, Blake also prefiled H.B. 1060