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Growing pot at home could become legal in Washington state

Other states that have legalized recreational cannabis already allow home growing, but Washington does not.

Washington legislators are considering a bill that would allow anyone age 21 and over to grow up to six marijuana plants at home. (Richard Vogel/AP)

Washington state residents have long been able to brew their own beer in their basement, or ferment homemade wine in their living room. If they want to smoke a joint to unwind, though, their only legal option is to get dressed and buy one at a store.

More than eight years after Washington voters legalized recreational cannabis, some state lawmakers say it’s past time to let people grow their own pot at home.

A bipartisan group of legislators is proposing a bill that would let adults 21 and over grow cannabis plants at home for recreational use.

House Bill 1019 would limit each adult to six home-grown plants. No more than 15 plants could be cultivated per household, limiting the ability of roommates to band together and create a small-scale marijuana farm.

Under Washington state law, qualified medical cannabis patients can already grow a limited amount of marijuana plants. But for nonpatients, growing marijuana at home is a class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

Washington’s ban on home growing puts the state at odds with most others that have legalized recreational pot use. Of those 15 states, at least 10 allow home growing, including Oregon, Vermont, Nevada, California and Colorado. Last fall, voters in South Dakota, Arizona and Montana also approved ballot measures that legalized growing marijuana at home.

State Rep. Shelley Kloba, D-Kirkland, called Washington’s ban on home growing of cannabis “an antiquated policy.”

“It is time for us to evolve in this space,” said Kloba, the prime sponsor of the bill to allow home growing.

The measure has been introduced several times in the past, but has stalled. Kloba thinks that the number of states that have recently embraced home growing builds the case for Washington to do the same.

She said many of the fears associated with allowing home growing — that it would fuel illegal activity, or create neighborhoods that constantly reek of weed — haven’t come to pass in other states.

Law enforcement officials still worry, however, that homegrown pot could be easily sold on the illicit market, or that backyard cannabis plants could prove an attractive target for thieves and burglars.

“Our members, candidly, are not comfortable with the public safety aspects and public safety concerns associated with allowing marijuana home-grows,” said James McMahan of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, which represents law enforcement leaders.

“We also, of course, have great concern over the exposure to children,” McMahon added at a Jan. 15 public hearing.

That concern was echoed by substance-abuse prevention advocates, particularly because the bill says the state Liquor and Cannabis Board wouldn’t have authority to enforce the rules that would apply to home marijuana grows.

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“We do not want to create an environment where adults are freely growing, producing and processing marijuana at home without any training or standardization,” said Jesse Jimenez of Prevent Coalition, an organization based in Vancouver, Washington, that works to prevent youth drug and alcohol use.

John Kingsbury, co-founder of the group Homegrow Washington, said many of the concerns people express about home growing seem to relate more to large-scale cannabis operations.

“What I often hear is conflation of large-scale illicit activity with what we are actually advocating for here, which is legalizing six-plant, noncommercial home gardens,” Kingsbury said.

He added that most people won’t choose to cultivate cannabis at home, simply because “growing it is hard, and the product is readily available in stores.”

Still, some new provisions have been added to the bill this year to try to address public safety and nuisance concerns.

For one, the measure would create a new civil infraction for anyone who grows marijuana in public view, or whose marijuana production can be “readily smelled” by neighbors or passersby. Those offenses could result in a $50 fine, but wouldn’t go on someone’s criminal record.

Marijuana growing would also be banned in homes that provide day care services or host foster children.

As before, selling homegrown cannabis to another person would not be allowed. Landlords could also restrict renters from growing marijuana on their property, if they choose.

The measure passed out of the House Commerce and Gaming Committee on Friday. It would still need to pass both chambers of the Legislature — and not be vetoed by the governor — to become law.

Last year, the bill died in the House Appropriations Committee, which reviews budget-related measures.

But it’s not clear that the state’s tax collections would be hurt by allowing people to grow marijuana at home.

Timothy Nadreau, a research economist at Washington State University, said he studied how allowing marijuana home growing would affect state revenue. He concluded that cannabis tax collections would most likely continue to increase if HB 1019 passed, in part because home growing could boost people’s interest in cannabis products.

Right now, the state is collecting about $1 billion per year in marijuana excise tax revenues.

“I don’t see this having a significant impact on the state budget,” said state Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, who is co-sponsoring the measure.

Lara Kaminsky, co-founder of the Cannabis Alliance, said she thinks allowing marijuana home growing will actually be good for the cannabis industry in Washington state. She said it could create a market for greater variety in cannabis products, much as homebrewing and microbreweries did for the beer industry.

As things stand now, many customers simply go for whatever pot product is cheapest and has the highest level of THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana, she said.

If homegrows are allowed to flourish, “The consumer will be more discerning, have better questions and look for products that have more qualities than just a number on a package,” Kaminsky predicted.

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Growing Cannabis in Washington – Where to Begin

Growing cannabis in Washington can be more than just good fun, it can be a lucrative business venture too. Once you tackle the local regulations and get your state license, you can start growing marijuana indoors or outdoors. Although some strains thrive in indoor settings, the Eastern Washington area is particularly favorable for outdoor growing. The local legislation issues different licenses for growers, processors, and retailers. So if you are an entrepreneur or are planning to start a cannabis business in Washington, read on.

Here is some important information you need to know before you start growing cannabis in Washington.

Is Cannabis Legal in Washington State?

Yes, it is! Surprising to many, the State of Washington was actually the first state to legalize recreational cannabis in the U.S. Many people think California was the pioneer leading the way, but in reality, Washington was the silent winner! Recreational marijuana first became legal in December 2012.

Medical marijuana has been allowed since 1998, but a medical necessity defense was recognized authorizing possession as early as 1979. Washington has a booming legal cannabis industry, and the tax revenue is rapidly growing while also helping the local economy. However, unlike other states where recreational or medicinal marijuana is legal, you can’t grow for personal use in Washington. Although nowadays, any adult over the age of 21 can legally purchase marijuana, growing cannabis in Washington is only possible if you hold a state license.

You can only grow cannabis in Washington with a state license.

Can I Buy Cannabis Seeds in Washington State?

You can only purchase marijuana seeds in Washington State if you are a state-licensed business. If you’re not a licensed grower, you can’t buy seeds, cannabis clones, plants, and you also can’t purchase them in other states and transport them back to Washington. So if you were on the fence about whether to apply for your licence or not, now you know it’s worth it to stay on the right side of the law.

How to Get a Grow License in Washington

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) offers different licenses for businesses interested in growing, processing, retailing, transporting, and researching. You can hold a growing and processing license simultaneously, but you can’t have a retailing license. Growers and processing facilities are only allowed to sell cannabis to retailers and not to the final consumer.

Unfortunately, the application process for getting a producer, processor, or retailer license in Washington is currently closed. According to the board, there is no plan for opening an application window soon. Although you can’t buy or transfer a producer license, you can purchase or invest in a business that currently holds a valid license. You can also organize your business plan, find a suitable location for your facility, get funding, and get everything ready for when the WSLCB starts accepting applications.

Whether you choose to acquire an already licensed business or want to get prepare for the license application, there are a couple of documents you’ll need. Here’s the information that you must present:

  • Criminal history check for applicant, investors, owners, and spouses,
  • Proof that all business members have been residents in Washington for at least six months before the application,
  • If you’re part of a business entity, it must have been formed in Washington,
  • Government-issued identification for the applicant, investors, owners, and spouses,
  • Financial statements, bank statements, and tax returns.
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All business members must have been Washington residents for at least six months. If that’s an issue for your business, you may want to consider investing elsewhere. Applying for a cannabis license in California, for example, is a little less of a headache.

The growers’ licenses in Washington are divided into three different tiers, depending on the your facility’s square footage. If the operation has under 2,000 square feet, it will be in tier one. A facility with square footage between 2,000 and 10,000 will fit under tier two. Tier three encompasses operations sized from 10,000 to 30,000 square feet.

Growers’ licenses are divided into different tiers depending on the facility square footage.

A producer license must contain detailed information such as traceability, security, employee training and qualifications, as well as plans for the destruction of waste, protocols for testing, detailed descriptions of the growing areas, and operation plans. A new application costs $1381, and there’s a $250 non-refundable fee. If you plan to purchase an existing licensed business, you must pay a $75 fee and fill out the form Change in Governing People, Percentage Owned and/or Stock/Unit Ownership.

Once You’ve Got Your License, How to Start Growing Cannabis

The WSLCB has some regulations in place regarding how you can grow cannabis in Washington. For indoor growing, you must have a facility that is fully enclosed and secure. If you opt for a greenhouse, it must have a roof, rigid walls, and secured doors. A non-rigid greenhouse counts as outdoor produce, and it must be protected from public sight by a wall that is at least eight feet high.

Some security requirements should be included according to the state law. The safety measures include alarm systems, surveillance cameras, identity badges for employees and visitors, and traceability records. You must also have samples for buyers, for testing, sale records, and excise tax records. Ensure that everyone involved in transporting your product holds a marijuana transportation license with the WSLCB, which costs $250.

Final Thoughts

The path for obtaining a cannabis business license in the State of Washington is undoubtedly a windy one. However, don’t let this detain you from starting a cannabis business that can positively impact thousands of lives. Make sure you comply with the local municipality, state, and federal regulations to avoid any unnecessary headaches.

Cannabis News is a space dedicated to discussing everything related to marijuana growing, culture, legislation, and more. This information is curated by Homegrown Nursery, your source for top-shelf cannabis clones in California.