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Washington Report Gives Side-Eye to Homegrow Legalization

November 29, 2017
If legal homegrow comes to Washington state anytime soon—and that’s still a big if—it’s likely to be very, very tightly regulated.

Recommendations unveiled Wednesday by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) say that if the state does allow personal cultivation, grows should be subject to strict limits: government-issued permits, a four-plant cap, steps to ensure security and prevent access by minors, and, in the case of one proposal, even a system to track each individual homegrown plant across the state.

Washington is currently the only adult-use cannabis state that doesn’t allow residents to grow their own plants for nonmedical use. A bill passed by the Legislature in April directed the LCB to review that policy. On Wednesday, the agency released a report with three recommended “options” for lawmakers to consider.


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One option would maintain the status quo and keep adult-use homegrow illegal. The other two options would establish systems to license and regulate homegrows in ways the LCB says would comply with the Department of Justice’s Cole memo, which outlines provisions states must follow to avoid federal enforcement actions.

While the LCB report outlines a path for lawmakers to legalize homegrown cannabis, it’s hardly a full-throated endorsement. It actually provides plenty of fodder against legalizing homegrow, including warnings that “home grows have operated as a cover for the illicit market and diversion and could undermine the regulated system” and that “any approach that allows for private citizens to grow marijuana at home will carry considerable resource impacts and costs for regulation and enforcement.”


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This isn’t unexpected from the LCB. In 2015, the agency wrote a letter to lawmakers opposing a bill that would’ve allowed adults to grow up to six plants for personal use. It threw cold water on a similar proposal earlier this year, saying homegrow enforcement would be expensive and cut into state tax revenue from retail sales.

“People who consume marijuana should not be forced to take part in the retail market, and home cultivation is really the only way to do that.”
Morgan Fox, Marijuana Policy Project

“The WSLCB considered many options from tightly regulated approaches to no regulations but ultimately dismissed any considerations not consistent with the Cole Memo,” Chris Thompson, the agency’s director of legislative relations, wrote in a letter to lawmakers that accompanied Wednesday’s report.

The biggest difference between the two legalization options is tracking. One option would set up a framework to track plants throughout the state, similar to track-and-trace programs that Washington and other legal states use to track retail products from seed to sale. A second option would drop that tracking requirement and instead charge local officials with controlling and enforcing limits. (Overviews of the two plans are included at the end of this article, and the LCB’s full report is available on the agency’s website.)


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What’s so important about homegrow? Supporters argue that allowing adults to cultivate small amounts of cannabis for personal use would cut into illicit sales, give growers more control over the products they consume, ease access for medical patients wary of registering with the state, and put cannabis on equal footing with alcohol. It’s long been legal for Washington residents to brew their own beer and make their own wine without a license. Making hard liquor, however, requires a federal distilled spirits permit.

“We firmly believe that marijuana should be regulated very similarly to alcohol, and home brewing is legal in most states,” Morgan Fox, Marijuana Policy Project’s communications director, told Leafly in June. “People who consume marijuana should not be forced to take part in the retail market, and home cultivation is really the only way to do that.”


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John Novak, an advocate who worked on a homegrow bill this year that failed to make it through the Legislature, wasn’t optimistic when the LCB began working on the recommendations. “The WSLCB could come back and say, ‘Y’know, why the hell not.’ But for the past two or three years, they’ve been fighting against it hard.”

Now’s the time to call your elected officials.

Wednesday’s report represents the most favorable stance to homegrow the LCB has taken so far, but it’s also peppered with warnings that could scare lawmakers into upholding the current ban. Its pages give prominence to the concerns of law enforcement officials, who have a whole host of concerns around homegrow. The report is virtually silent on the benefits homegrow could bring—despite the fact that nearly three-quarters (74.5%) of public comments came in favor of personal cultivation.


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With the report in the hands of lawmakers, now’s the time to call your elected officials. Here are the options the LCB has recommended to them:

Option 1

Tightly Regulated Recreational Home Grows – State Framework

  • 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 other than already legally sanctioned medical marijuana home growing.
  • Require tracking of all plants in the traceability system to help prevent diversion.
  • Limit of no more than four 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)

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Option 2

State Statute 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.
  • Require a permit to possess plants. Absent a permit, growing marijuana for any purpose is illegal other than already legally sanctioned medical marijuana home grows.
  • Limit of no more than four 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).
  • Allow local jurisdictions to “opt‐in” for or “opt‐out” of allowing recreational home grows.

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Option 3

Prohibit Recreational Home Grows

  • Do not allow recreational home grows. Maintain current status.
  • A regulated system 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.

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Ben Adlin

Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor who specializes in cannabis politics and law. He was a news editor for Leafly from 2015-2019. Follow him on Twitter: @badlin

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  • Nightmask

    “home grows have operated as a cover for the illicit market and diversion and could undermine the regulated system” and that “any approach that allows for private citizens to grow marijuana at home will carry considerable resource impacts and costs for regulation and enforcement.”

    Diversion? Do they mean distribution? As in they don’t want people to share/sell their plants or end product outside the regulated system? Because I thought diversion meant like a distraction or to alter the flow of something toward another direction. If it’s the latter then what they’re worried about is that home grown cannabis could divert funds away from the regulated, meaning highly controlled, system (they don’t care about the plants specifically they care about less money going into the pockets of big business), because that money that would have gone towards corporations such as those supplying pharmaceutical drugs (which home grown medical cannabis could reduce/replace). And the “illicit market” they describe is people trading/transacting directly between each other (which makes them a ‘criminal’ in the eyes of the law but it doesn’t mean they’re dangerous) and outside the “regulated system” so government cannot get their greedy piece of the pie through taxes, permits, permissions, and other methods of legalized government theft. I doubt they care much about the impact to cannabis shops selling cannabis in it’s many forms because of how messed up the business side of cannabis is in America (it’s still illegal federally so banking, taxes, payments, etc are either outside the system or incredibly complicated or don’t provide enough profit to stay viable because of all the aforementioned issues).

    They say there will be “considerable resource impacts and costs for regulation and enforcement” if people were allowed to home grow and I’m really curious to know exactly how “considerable” these “resource impacts and costs” would be. But first we need to look at what they mean by “regulation”. According to the first definition for regulation is: “a law, rule, or other order prescribed by authority, especially to regulate conduct.” Okay fair enough, a rule prescribed by an authority to regulate conduct. So regulation means to regulate? The dictionary definition of regulate is: “to control or direct by a rule, principle, method, etc.” Right. So they’re saying it will have “considerable resource impacts and costs” to enforce a law designed to tightly control practically everything related to home growing cannabis. I don’t think the geniuses behind these recommendations considered the notion that if you don’t seek to control so much you won’t have to enforce as much and it won’t cost as much.

    It should be very clear by now that those in power do not serve the people, they seek to maintain and expand the status quo of power, profit, and control. Here we have recommendations put forth by those in power to tightly control the home growing of cannabis, not because cannabis is ‘dangerous’ but because if it weren’t so controlled it could reduce the profits of big business (i.e. Big Pharma), not to mention the loss in taxes for government and the power mad control freaks who run it. It’s not about weed being ‘dangerous’ or a ‘gateway drug’ or whatever other propaganda the government spews, it is and always has been about those in power seeking to maintain and expand the status quo of power, profit, and control.

  • massman

    It’s comical whenever I hear Washington has legalized. If you can’t homegrow, then it’s not legal.

  • gabergen

    This is just more fascist control by Olympia. They are worried that we will start growing and share with our friends and then they wouldn’t get the revenue from the stores. Well let me tell you something if people want to grow it they already are. Growing weed for smoking is costly. If you don’t do it right you waste your time and money. So stop worrying. It is legal to make beer and wine and the hard stuff, but do you see everybody running out and getting their equipment to do that? Before it was legal we didn’t care and smoked it and obviously someone was growing it. Same is going on now I am sure. Your precious taxes are still going to go to Olympia.

  • freewheelinfranklin543

    Washington state is trying to shore up the monopoly and the super high prices.Because of that they have the highest prices and lowest quality of any so called legal state. They capped the number of recreational licenses after only about a month of issuing them to enforce the monopoly. They have made themselves a target for Sessions.

  • DCBC

    Ideas of Plant tracking and patents on it make me want to puke. These plants belong to the people. Also commercial growing has ruined a lot of strains we’ll never get to see again thanks to only growing what’s fast and what works inside and produces the most. Who is to say your the only one that’s crossed those strains. Like massman said ” If you can’t homegrow, then it’s not legal”

  • Keith_Fagin

    Meanwhile in Canada:
    February 2016 Federal Court Decision Allard v. Canada
    Co-counsel Kirk Tousaw said “Basically we won, and it was a complete victory,” and “We proved that growing medical cannabis can be perfectly safe, and can be done completely in compliance with the law and people ought to have a right to do that without fear of being arrested and locked in cages for that activity.” and “The lessons I think are pretty obvious. If you can grow cannabis for yourself for medical purposes safely and with no risk for the public, surely, you can grow cannabis for yourself for non-medical purposes safely and with no risk to the public,”
    Also of interest is,
    Dr. Susan C. Boyd, a B.C. researcher’s book “Killer Weed: Marijuana Grow Ops, Media and Justice”. about how law enforcement and media are not telling the facts.
    Google Dr. Susan C. Boyd’s “Reefer madness is governmental”
    Dr. Susan C. Boyd is a member of Liberal government “Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation”

  • Thomy

    I DON’T SEE A PROBLEM AT ALL WITH IT. We go to the grocery store and buy all the meat, fruit and vegetables we want, yet it is clearly legal to grow our own at home and the commercial food industry still flourishes… The same would hold true with it being lawful to grow Cannabis at home in Washington state. Some would grow, some would rely upon dispensaries, simple as that but like home brewed beer, growing good quality Cannabis at home, requires a lot of careful planning and a place suitable for growing that same good quality cannabis and not many homes today can provide that. Growing it outdoors could get difficult in Washington state and present a real challenge to many with Washington’s much cooler climate, compared to both Oregon and California and only certain strains of Cannabis would grow to good quality. It’s not like Washington’s residents could pick any strain and grow it outdoors. It doesn’t work that way. They can grow it indoors but how many people in Washington are going to completely give up the room, cost of lights and electricity, soil, nutrients etc. to save only few dollars if any at all ? To answer all these questions we need to look no further than Colorado. There you will find your answers………..

  • farmerlion

    Quite honestly, I’m a better grower than many or most licensed growers. Because I don’t have a million dollars to invest in a large grow operation. I’m supposed to settle for lower quality. With special bank accounts set up through square. In a open flea market event for home growers. All sales could be monitored and taxes paid before leaving the event. I brought in this much, I sold this much, here’s your money Uncle Sam. Have all transactions made electronically. Then your only monitoring events for home growers who wish to sale. That versus facing prosecution is a no brainer! Then the entire community grows stronger together. Peace