With the passage of Initiative 502 in 2012, Washington state residents 21 and older — and visitors, for that matter — are allowed to possess and use any combination of the following: an ounce of usable marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana-infused edibles, 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquids and 7 grams of marijuana concentrate.
What you can’t have — unless you have a doctor’s permission for medical marijuana — are any live marijuana plants in your own home or garden.
Under penalty of law and potential seizure of property, you can’t grow your own.
Washington state is an outlier among states that allow the sale and possession of recreational marijuana. Of the 11 states where state law has legalized recreational cannabis, only Washington and two other states forbid growing marijuana at home; the other eight allow between three and 12 live plants per person, with most states allowing six.
The bias against “green thumbs” is among the restrictions that remain from the state’s cautious and gradual roll-out of cannabis laws. Last year’s legislative session saw a reasonable loosening of the state’s seed-to-sale controls that too-often came down hard and cost growers — otherwise operating legally — their licenses because of minor violations, such as a smudged identification tag.
Legislation in the state Senate and House would lift that restriction and allow adults to grow up to six plants at a time at home, one more example of easing paranoia regarding state law and public sentiment over cannabis.
“We’re past the ‘Reefer Madness,’ days,” said Maureen Walsh, R-College Place, who is the sponsor of Senate Bill 5155. A self-described libertarian, Walsh says allowing adults to grow a few plants seems a logical extension of state law on cannabis.
While each adult would be allowed six plants, each residence would be limited to a maximum of 15 plants. Under other restrictions outlined in the bills, each plant would have to be labeled and identify the owner and none of the marijuana produced could be sold, traded or bartered. Additionally, property owners could prohibit a renter from growing marijuana.
Both bills, introduced last year, were vetted during committee hearings but didn’t advance further. House Bill 1131 is scheduled for an executive session before the House Committee on Commerce and Gaming today, after which it could advance. Committee Chairman Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, has indicated his support for the House bill. Walsh expected her bill could also be approved soon by the Senate Labor and Commerce committee without an additional hearing.
Among the objections raised to allowing adults to grow their own marijuana have been concerns over increased availability to children and illegal sales. That hasn’t been the experience in states where home-grown marijuana is allowed, David Ducharme, an attorney working with the legislation’s proponents, told The Herald Editorial Board recently. The legal availability of cannabis in Washington state hasn’t shown to have increased its use by minors, according to the state’s Healthy Youth Survey; in fact, marijuana use among youths has showed declines in recent surveys. Allowing marijuana plants, particularly in homes where cannabis already is consumed, isn’t likely to increase the risk of kids’ exposure.
Law enforcement hasn’t reported significant problems with home production of beer and wine; the experience with home grows, limited to a few plants, is unlikely to show a different result. Like hobbyists making their own beer and wine, those growing their own cannabis are almost always law-abiding folks, Walsh said.
“Don’t assign illegal motives to my constituents,” the Eastern Washington senator said.
Among the arguments favoring the grow-your-own legislation:
It would allow those growing cannabis for their own use to know for certain what went into the marijuana. The recent scare over vaping products — especially regarding vaping liquids containing THC derived from cannabis — is now believed to have been caused by the addition of a vitamin E oil that was causing a pneumonia-like illness for hundreds of users nationwide.
It could also provide an economic boost to those providing supplies to home growers, in particular lighting and hydroponic systems that would allow for year-round cultivation.
While recreational marijuana has been legal in the state for about seven years, state lawmakers and officials have addressed various aspects of its legalization during the same period. That continues today, tightening the reins here and loosening there. Among a bill that seeks to set a new standard, House Bill 2546 would set a potency limit of 10 percent THC level for cannabis concentrates.
Legislation allowing adults to grow a few plants in their own homes is a reasonable adjustment to the voters’ wishes regarding recreational marijuana.