Washington State Releases Study But Fails To Make Final Recommendation on Recreational Marijuana Home Grows

When the Washington State Legislature passed its most recent marijuana regulatory bill, ESSB 5131, it directed the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (the “LCB”) to study options for legalizing recreational marijuana home grows. On November 29th, the LCB released its report.

The LCB’s report provides three options for the Legislature’s consideration. These options include:

  1. Tightly regulated recreational home grows.
    1. Permitting and tracking of plants throughout the state
    2. Enforcement shared between LCB and local authorities
    3. No more than 4 plants per household
    4. Recreational home growers would acquire plants from state licensed producers
    5. Security requirements to prevent youth access and diversion
    6. No extraction with combustible materials
  2. Local regulation of recreational home grows.
    1. Same as Option 1, except home grows would be authorized, controlled, and enforced by local jurisdictions
    2. Local jurisdictions could opt-in or opt-out of allowing recreational home grows
  3. Prohibition of recreational home grows

The LCB came up with these three options after receiving comments from stakeholders and assessing options that would comply with the Cole Memo. More on the Cole Memo here.

The LCB also considered regulatory options developed by other states, including Colorado, Oregon and Rhode Island. By way of comparison, Colorado allows home grows of up to 12 plants, Oregon allows individuals to possess 4 plants, and Rhode Island allows medical marijuana patients to cultivate up to 12 plants. During discussions, each state, emphasized the need for clear enforcement parameters based upon challenges in controlling home grows.

The LCB’s report sets forth the pros and cons of each of the three proposed options. For instance, among the benefits of Option 1 is the ability to mitigate impacts through permit and tracking requirements. The primary downside to this approach is the large regulatory and enforcement costs. Option 2 has similar benefits to Option 1, but a big negative to this option is the patchwork approach that would occur as some communities opted in while others opted out of allowing home grows.  Finally, although Option 3 creates the least regulatory cost, it is unrealistic to think that home grows will not occur even if prohibited. Thus Option 3 may end up consuming the most resources in terms of prosecution and enforcement.

Ultimately, the LCB report fails to make any final recommendation to the Legislature and the Legislature will have to decide which of these three recreational home grow options are best suited to Washington State.  This should set the stage for lively debate on this issue during the 2018 Washington State Legislative Session.

For more information on the regulation of marijuana businesses in Washington State, please contact Heather Wolf.