To anyone invested in the saga of medical- and recreational-weed legalization in Washington, it can feel like a Sisyphean struggle. And one of the biggest green nugs we’ve been pushing up that hill for the past few years has been legalized home growing for recreational consumers. Washington is the only state to legalize recreational weed while keeping home grows verboten. Now state legislators are finally turning their attention to this controversial topic, and of course Olympia is split down the middle. So the legislators have tossed the hot potato to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.
The WSLCB has come up with three potential paths forward. The first would tightly regulate recreational-marijuana home grows, requiring a permit and allowing four plants maximum. These plants would be entered into the state traceability system and subject to security requirements to prevent youth access. If you have more plants than are permitted, the provision would allow law enforcement to seize and destroy all those beyond the limit.
The second option would allow for local control of home grows. This approach would also require a permit, allow four plants maximum, and set minimum requirements for security and preventing youth access. Local jurisdictions can be more restrictive in this scenario, maintaining the right to permit, authorize, control, and enforce all home grows.
The third option: No home grows.
I gotta be honest: I don’t like any of these options. The first is just draconian and backward. We are asking individual citizens to follow the same laws that govern our state’s gigantic grow operations. Are we really going to have LCB officers coming into people’s homes to scan bar codes on plants? That is a huge waste of tax dollars and a massive invasion of privacy.
Option two is too vague. The WSLCB website claims this option “does not require plants to be entered into traceability,” but I find that hard to believe because “traceability” is part of the Cole memo, issued by the Department of Justice in 2013, which lays out requirements for states beginning to legalize cannabis. The chief condition is that states have to trace cannabis “from seed to sale” to keep weed out of the hands of kids and the black market.
Of course, not legalizing recreational home grows also sucks. I feel like this whole thing is a bum deal for home-growers, especially those who don’t have the privilege of paying for expensive weed or risking the legal ramifications of an illegal home-grow op, no matter how small. But replace the phrase “home grow” with “home brew.” Can you imagine officers coming into your home and scanning bar codes on your bottles of home-brewed beer, brandy, mead, or wine? Or limiting you to just four bottles? Or punishing you because you didn’t lock it up tightly enough? Can you imagine the impact it would have on the beer industry—especially here in the Pacific Northwest— if homebrewing was policed the way home grows might be?
WSLCB is having a public hearing on this matter October 4 at 10 a.m. at their headquarters in Olympia. They’ll be streaming the meeting live if you can’t make it, and taking written public comments via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) and snail mail (P.O. Box 43080, Olympia, WA 98504) until October 11. There’s more information at the agency’s website. Whether you agree with me or not, let your voice be heard and help guide the future of cannabis in Washington.