A Year of Growth: It's growing like a weed

The cannabis industry and its supporters are among the few people who can look back on 2020 and view it in a positive light. From expanded legalization to historic, if futile, congressional votes, the year was a resounding success for cannabis. 2021 looks to pick up right where 2020 left off here in Washington.

On Dec. 10, state representatives Shelley Kloba and Drew MacEwen, a Democrat and a Republican, respectively, pre-filed a bill for the 2021 legislative session that would allow home gardeners to grow their own cannabis. Currently, that's only allowed for medical cannabis patients. HB 1019, if passed, would expand it to recreational as well.

"It is not a violation of this section, this chapter, or any other provision of Washington state law for a person twenty-one years of age or older to produce or possess no more than six plants on the premises of the housing unit occupied by the person," a critical portion of the bill reads.

The bill would also up the limit for personal possession of cannabis from 1 to 16 ounces, bringing it in line with the current rules for medical marijuana in the state. Present recreational cannabis regulations state that possession of more than 40 grams, just under 1.5 ounces, or cultivation of any plants is considered a class C felony.

We've been here before, though. A few times. As recently as a year ago.

A nearly identical bill was taken up last January but did not make it out of committee. That bill, HB 1131, was actually a reintroduction of legislation initially taken up in January 2019. The state House has addressed, only to turn down, home cultivation at least once every year since 2017.

That year is significant because in 2017 the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board conducted a study on the topic of home cultivation. The LCB presented three options to the Legislature: tight state regulation, more flexible local regulation or continued prohibition. Of the 466 public comments submitted to the LCB for the study, 347 were in favor of some form of legalized home cultivation. On the other hand, the LCB met with 16 county sheriff's departments, and they unanimously opposed home cultivation.

Of the 15 states that have legalized recreational cannabis, only Illinois, New Jersey and Washington prohibit home grows outright. ♦

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