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Feb-08-2021 05:20printcomments

It's Time For Legal Home Grown Cannabis in Washington

Washington’s Homegrow Bill HB 1019 is scheduled for a hearing in the Appropriations Committee on February 9th.

cannabis
Home grown cannabis may be legal in Washington soon.
Photo by Bonnie King, Salem-News.com

(SALEM, Ore.) - The State of Washington is one of the progressive states that has reformed marijuana laws in recent years. However, of all the states that have done so, including Washington DC, it is significant that Washington is one of two states that do not provide legal home grow for recreational marijuana gardens. In fact, it’s a felony if you decide to grow.

That’s right. In the historically “cool” Northwest, Washington has been lagging behind other states. The majority of the reformed States and the Federal District of Columbia provide for 6 home grow plants, Oregon provides for 4 plants with both Colorado and Michigan at 12 plants. And Washington is at ZERO.

Now, a group of strong-willed Washingtonians are on the brink of achieving a long sought after goal. This Tuesday, the Washington Legislature will consider allowing residents over 21 years old to grow marijuana in their own back yard.

When Washingtonian voters passed I-502 in 2012, legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana, it was the culmination of the dreams and hard work of decades of cannabis advocates.

The new law wasn’t perfect and implementation had some growing pains, but in general is a great success, with one clear exception:

    “...Personal "grows" in one's own home, except for medical cannabis as regulated under RCW 69.51A, will remain illegal.”
    (I-502)

Right away it was known that correcting this oversight would be necessary. Washington residents have always wanted the freedom to grow their own, and to live without threat of law enforcement action.

[HB 1019 - 2021-22 Allowing residential marijuana agriculture] will solve this discrepancy, with Washington’s residents enjoying what is fast becoming the new normal throughout the United States.

This matter has been before the Washington Legislature before, but things have changed since then. Not only is there verifiable data in regard to cannabis’ impact on the state’s revenue, there are positive reviews via law enforcement and proven benefits to the people of Washington overall.

What’s the Skinny on HB1019?

This bill would legalize small home grows of 6 plants per adult (21+) to a maximum of 15 plants per residence. Any sales of homegrown cannabis would remain a crime. Landlords could prohibit home growing by their tenants.

Here are the details:

  • Provides that adults may produce and possess up to six marijuana plants at their housing unit (residence).
  • Adults can keep what they harvest from these plants. Establishes production and possession limits for certain marijuana products derived from the plants.
  • Establishes a 15-plant limit per housing unit, no matter how many people live there.
  • Requires marking of marijuana plants and marijuana produced from those plants with the person’s name, date of birth, address, planting date, and harvest date.
  • Retains the right of property owners to prohibit cultivation of marijuana by a renter or lessee under a rental agreement.
  • Protects marijuana and marijuana products, and the property on which they were produced or possessed under this law from seizure and forfeiture.

Should anyone violate the law, law enforcement will know by employing probable cause searches or search warrants, just as they do with any suspicion of any other illegal activity.

In regard to “access for kids”, home growing is unlikely to be a source for children. The Healthy Youth Survey said that the passage of I-502 has not increased use of cannabis by children and has lowered it in some cases. It’s important to note that any home that decides to have a home garden, probably has commercial cannabis in it now.

The intent of the law is to prevent growers from being able to accumulate enough cannabis to sell outside of the regulated commercial market and to protect neighbors from problems that large gardens can create.

The difference is, with legalized home grow, the police would not be able to seize a house just because six plants were growing inside, and they can do this today.

HB1019 answers the call for needed changes in Washington.

Will Revenues Take a Hit from Home Grows?

It’s no surprise that business is booming for Marijuana Dispensaries in Washington, and that means serious money for the state. Marijuana Excise taxes are the fastest growing component of the state’s General & Selective Sales Taxes revenues.

In 2020, state tax revenues from direct cannabis retail sales were $468.81 million, far outshining excise revenues from alcohol sales at $415.28 million and tobacco/vapor product excise revenues at $383.55 million.

According to experts, the more mature industries of alcohol and tobacco have plateaued, whereas the cannabis sector represents an “infant industry” that is still in a growth phase.

Total tax revenues in 2020 stemming from the cannabis sector in Washington totaled $883.38 million (including property taxes, sales & excise taxes, and corporate and other taxes). The entire cannabis sector contributed $1.85 billion to gross state product.

Oregon, Colorado and California are all reporting similar growth trajectories, none of which appear to be slowing down.

So, will tax revenues take a hit when home grow is legal? It appears not. According to legal states, dispensary bottom lines are not reduced due to home grow gardens.

For example, despite home grow being legal there for almost a year, Michigan commercial dispensaries had lines wrapping around the block and generated half a million dollars in tax revenue in the first two weeks they were open.

“Banning home grow to protect taxes on commercial cannabis is like banning bicycles to protect taxes on gasoline.”
~ John Kingsbury, co-founder Homegrow Washington

The cannabis sector directly and indirectly supported nearly 18,700 full time equivalent jobs according to a recent WSU economic impact study. In terms of COVID recovery and restarting the economy home grow would be a good thing for Washington.

Home grow gardens will help small business through the many purchases necessary to maintain a healthy garden. This is agriculture and therefore many variables via Mother Nature are to be faced year in and year out. There will be opportunities that are not yet available in this sector, and more jobs will be needing to be filled.

There has been no evidence that home grows hurt tax revenue in other states, therefore “taxes” are a bad justification to keep the law as is. Continuing a standard that allows the state to seize someone’s home for growing plants is more unacceptable with every day that goes by, especially as home grows are already legal and posing no problems in neighboring states.

Will Home Grows Affect Dispensary Businesses?

"Giving Washingtonians the freedom to grow at home won’t decrease commercial sale of cannabis any more than home brewing decreases the sale of beer."

The WSU economic impact study showed allowing home grows of marijuana would pose “minimal downside” risk for the retail marijuana industry and associated state tax collections.

Everyone does not want to, nor is capable to, have a garden. Those that do grow may not produce much useable herb. Cannabis may be a “weed”, but it is difficult to grow. It takes a green thumb, plenty of muscle, space and a monetary investment to grow a thriving garden.

People will still buy cannabis at dispensaries. Home grows will not compete with dispensaries. Buying legal cannabis is convenient and relatively inexpensive.

Most importantly, HB 1019 states clearly that it will remain very illegal to sell cannabis without a state license, so there is no profit to be made by growing at home and attempting to sell product... just preventable legal ails.

The personal benefit is great however, if your harvest is good and you are able to fill your pantry with your own home grown cannabis.

Put the JUSTICE in Social Justice

Washington law enforcement's de-emphasis of enforcement and prosecution of (personal use/low-level dealing) marijuana crimes were part of the context in which support for I-502 grew.

Following “legalization”, cannabis-related arrests are down in Washington, which is something to celebrate of course -but it’s not that simple.

According to Washington State University’s research group, that improvement has not been true for all people. Apparently Washington State governmental bodies are still seeking out, arresting and convicting people for possessing Marijuana.

Since I-502 passed in Washington, it’s a fact that fewer white people have been arrested, but people of color are actually being arrested MORE – arrests have more than doubled since legalization, even though white people smoke pot just as much as everyone else.

Washington can follow the lead of other states, and be a leader themselves by helping end the expensive and unsuccessful war on drugs, and HB 1019 is a big step in that direction. This bill could help inhibit unnecessary drug arrests and enforcement against people of color.

In Conclusion, the Pros Outweigh the Cons

Other states have not had bad experiences. “The things we were worried about most didn’t happen,” said Former Colorado Governor Hickenlooper. He told the Denver Post that “Cannabis legalization has been “amazing” for Colorado”.

The only real issue that was identified in Colorado was caused by their initial 99-plant limit in medical gardens, which was remedied by reducing that limit to 12 plants. The current bi-partisan bill by Rep Kloba (D) and co-sponsor Drew MacEwen (R) would enable Washingtonians to grow up to 6 plants, which is in line with other states which allow between four to twelve plants.

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board verified the lack of negative experience in Colorado in their 2017 study of Recreational Home Grows. A simple back yard garden is a threat to no one.

HB 1019 - 2021-22 Allowing residential marijuana agriculture passed out of the Commerce and Gaming Committee on a 7-2 (with bipartisan support) DO PASS recommendation Jan 26th and is scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on Appropriations Feb 9 at 3:30 PM.

“We will have expert testimony focusing on financial matters,” said Don Skakie co-founder of the advocacy group Home Grow Washington. “This is not a policy committee where general comments are appropriate.”

This is the committee where the bill stopped last time, so the sponsors know what’s at stake: the freedom of Washingtonians to GROW. It’s a cause worth fighting for.

*****

Source(s): Firth C. Marijuana Legalization in Washington State: Monitoring the Impact on Racial Disparities in Criminal Justice. Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute, University of Washington, June 2018; The Stranger; Healthy Youth Survey (Washington State); WSU economic impact study. [HB 1019 - 2021-22 Allowing residential marijuana agriculture]

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