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Home Grows and Craft Cannabis? What’s Next for Washington Weed Law

It’s 2020, cannabis has been legal in Washington for well over five years. As it stands, Washingtonians still can’t grow their cannabis at home. And Washington is still sticking to the three-tier system. Legislators, cannabis producers, and cannabis advocates have teamed up to try and change that.

Finally Making Progress on Home Grows in Washington

HB 1131 “Allowing residential marijuana agriculture,” would allow adults over the age of 21 to have home grows. Something many felt should have been allowed from the beginning of legalization.

If passed, the bill would allow adults over the age of 21 to grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes. Households could grow up a maximum of 15 plants, regardless of the number of residents.

There are other common-sense restrictions, like labeling edibles, and landlords being able to deny permission to grow cannabis plants.

Bi-partisan legislators, producers, retailers, and advocates alike all support the bill. HB 1131 is currently in committee. On February 5, a hearing was held where people testified in support of the bill. Those testifying included John Kingsbury of Cannabis Alliance.

“Many people are afraid of what will happen if Washington allows small home grows but the truth is that we would know what will happen,” Kingsbury stated at the hearing. “ Nine other states and Washington DC already allow it. We know that the federal government will not move in, because even Washington DC does it. We know that it will not result in significant revenue decreases because this has not happened in the nine other states.”

Others who testified in support of the bill included Uncle Ike’s owner Ian Eisenberg, and Betty Jane Taylor, a former Police Chief and member of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership. James McMahan, policy director for the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs testified in opposition to the bill. As did Seth Dawson of Washington Association for Substance Abuse Prevention.

Danielle Rosellison is the owner of Trail Blazin’ Productions, a cannabis producer in Bellingham. Rosellison wasn’t at the hearing but expressed her support for Kingsbury’s hard work, and HB 1131.

“In my world, this is a human rights issue,” Rosellison told The Sesh. “It’s a plant. For the love of God let them grow a plant. I think it’s really important. A question I’m always asked is if I think it will cut into my profits. My response is always the same. ‘Do you think the home brewing industry cuts into the profits of craft breweries?’ I don’t know any homebrewers who don’t go to the local breweries regularly, not one!”

HB 1131 has gotten further than any cannabis home grow bills before it, and supporters are optimistic it will get passed into law. In the next few days, the public will find out whether the bill moved out of committee.

Craft Cannabis in Washington is a No-Go

Another potentially game-changing bill is HB 2279, which aims to create a license for craft cannabis producers.

Micah Sherman, the owner of Raven Grass, a Tier 2 cannabis producer in Olympia, is a proponent of the bill.

“This bill would allow any license holder, so anybody that owns one production license, to switch their production over to this craft production license,” Sherman explained. “So for these tier 1 farms who are struggling because that is only 2,000 square feet, which is not enough productive capacity to have a business with, it’s a hobby-sized grow, in the context of a commercial grow. Any of those folks who are single license operators can switch over to this craft production license.”

Outdoor growers could go up to 30,000 square feet, and indoor growers could go up to 10,000 square feet, and the two could be blended. All of the cannabis sold on-site by producers, would have to be grown on-site.

Sherman also sees this as a way to help promote agrotourism in struggling rural areas. Similar to how Walla Walla has benefitted from becoming a designated wine region. Sherman sees potential for places like Okanagon county to become a cannabis region.

HB 2279 failed to make it out of committee, so it will not pass in this legislative session. The bill gained lots of bi-partisan support from legislators, and support from small cannabis producers. Large cannabis producers and cannabis retailers, however, fear that this bill will give these farms an unfair advantage and hurt retailers.

Input from a Lawmaker

Representative Laurie Dolan, who sponsored HB 2279, doesn’t see it that way.

“The wineries and breweries that are starting to be developed across Washington, those are really important industries,” Representative Dolan told The Sesh. “I don’t think for a minute that if we were to allow our small cannabis producers to sell their products on-site to people who are interested in learning more about it, it would decrease retail sales.”

Dolan drew on her experiences traveling to Washington’s wine regions to inform her decision to sponsor the bill.

“I think of it like going to a winery. When I go to a winery, I learn about grapes, I learn about how wine is made. I’m more of an educated consumer. And what I tend to do then, is if I like that wine, I’ll go to our big grocery stores, and I’ll say, ‘How come you don’t have this wine? You need to carry this wine.’ So just the very nature of educating consumers will do all sorts of good things for the industry.”

Rep. Dolan also co-sponsored HB 1131, which she similarly doesn’t see hurting existing cannabis businesses.

“I don’t see home grows hurting the industry at all,” Dolan said. “My dad had a little brewery in our basement, it was very small. He didn’t make a lot, it takes a lot of work. But they had a good time brewing for a while and tasting what they made. And I see home grows as the same thing. Adults should certainly have the right to grow a few plants and have the joy of watching them grow.”

Cannabis isn’t Dolan’s area of expertise, but clearly, she’s a quick study.

Washington’s current regular Legislative Session ends March 12. Time will tell if HB 1131 becomes law.

Will Washington finally be like every other legal weed state and finally allow home grows?! Maybe. HB 1131 has a fighting chance.

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