WASHINGTON: If you’ve been following legalization in Washington, you probably know that we’re the only one of the eight legal states (plus the District of Columbia) that does not allow adults to grow their own cannabis at home.
Initiative 502’s authors decided to drop home grow, in an effort to broaden its appeal. Washington’s initiative passed in 2012 with 56% of the vote — the same as Colorado whose law includes personal cultivation — a missed opportunity.
In the years that followed, political action in Olympia focused first on setting up the first crop of licensed growers, processors, and retailers. Then, legislators turned their attention to reforming the state’s medical marijuana laws, eliminating largely unregulated collectives in favor of registered co-ops, and offering the largest cannabis gardens and biggest retail discounts to patients registered with Washington’s Department of Health.
Nearly four and a half years after Washington picked a new approach to personal cannabis use, we’re only now talking about personal cultivation and so there was a lot of anticipation coming into the Commerce and Gaming Committee’s hearings on house bills 1092 and 1212 last Monday. The two home grow bills are basically the same, both legalizing cultivation for adults 21 and older. HB1092, sponsored by Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-23rd), has been discussed and promoted more in the greener corners of the internet.
Appleton has been supportive of cannabis reform for several years, and is known as a genuine ally. Her bill is short and straightforward, and allows houses with more than one person over 21 to have up to 12 plants while retaining up to 48 ounces of harvested cannabis. Based solely on plant count, its easy to call Appleton’s bill the best one.
But HB1212, sponsored by Rep. Brian Blake (D-19th), while allowing only 6 plants and 24 ounces per house, has some benefits Appleton’s bill lacks. First, it legalizes sharing and gifting of cannabis between adults, a little-enforced, but still felony offense in the state. Blake’s bill would also allow adults, patients, and caregivers to contract with laboratories directly to have their cannabis plants scientifically tested for potency and contaminants. Both sharing and individual testing would benefit patients and recreational growers.
HB1212 also restructures possession offenses for cannabis generally, possession of more than six plants but less than 18 would be a civil infraction for every excess plant. Over 18 plants is a misdemeanor, and 40 or more is a felony.
Rep. Blake’s legislation has two more benefits, first, Blake sits on the Commerce and Gaming Committee, well positioned to push for its passage. The second is more speculative, but when there are two bills dealing with cannabis, I’ve found he conservatively worded is more likely to gain support.
At Monday’s hearing many of those speaking in support were patients and their families. Also present were cannabis licensees and industry representatives. Those speaking in opposition were Rick Garza from Washington’s Liquor and Cannabis Board and Seth Dawson representing Washington Association for Substance Abuse Prevention.
As a lobbyist for Washington NORML PAC, I was the only person to testify as a recreational consumer and prospective grower. My argument was similar to those made by others: the rest of the legal states already allow for home grow; it keeps police resources focused on large scale trafficking and violent crime; and most of us won’t be Cannabis Cup level master growers.
But I made one more argument that no one else did. Section 7 of our state constitution reads “No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law.” Maybe the state once had a valid interest in violating homes for a plant, I said, but not when voters rejected prohibition. You don’t have to like cannabis to agree that our constitution thinks the homes and affairs of its citizens should be sacred.
Following the hearing several committee members said they were interested in passing one of the bills, a republican member said he was more likely to support 1212 than 1092. If the majority of the committee votes “Do Pass” on either bill it will advance to another committee, eventually having to pass the house, and do the whole process again in the state senate.
No state has legalized personal cultivation outside of the ballot box, so just making the case to one committee in one chamber of the legislature brings Washington one step closer to making cannabis history.
Watch the hearing on TVW:
Contact members of the Commerce and Gaming Committee here and urge passage of either HB1092 or HB1212.