OLYMPIA — Washington state residents may be allowed to grow up to six of their own cannabis plants and up to 15 plants per household if the Legislature passes House Bill 1131 or its companion, Senate Bill 5155.
Under current law, people can obtain prescriptions for medical marijuana to grow up to 15 plants at home. But the proposed bills, sponsored by Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen in the house and Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla-Walla in the Senate, would extend similar home-grow ability to recreational users.
According to a House Appropriations Committee staff report, retail cannabis sales in the fiscal year of 2019 produced around $387 million in tax revenue for the state. The same report claimed that a 1-percent reduction in sales of dry bud, the same as what would be produced by home growers, would cost the state close to $2 million in revenue.
Ian Eisenberg, founding member of the Craft Cannabis Coalition and co-owner of Uncle Ike’s dispensary in Seattle, testified to the the House Appropriations Committee on Feb. 5 in favor of the bill. Eisenberg said as a marijuana retailer he is not threatened by home-growers. He believes the number of people who will commit to home-growing will be negligible.
“Many of us have hobby home vegetable gardens, but it doesn’t affect what we buy from the grocery stores,” Eisenberg argued. “If anything, I appreciate what is available in the stores and buy more of it.”
Eisenberg said it is easy and cheap to buy cannabis at a retail store, especially when compared to the time and monetary investment it takes to grow your own. He said growing marijuana requires specialized lights and equipment and is a time-consuming process. Eisenberg claimed the state has the cheapest and highest-quality retail cannabis in the country, even after the 47-percent state tax.
“There is no way a home-grow could ever touch this,” he argued.
James McMahan, policy director for the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, testified against the bill. McMahan believes it could increase burglary and home invasion as people may try to steal the valuable home-grown crops.
McMahan also argued that home-growers who do not consume all of their cannabis may be compelled to contribute to the marijuana black market, depriving the state of revenue from the sales tax.
Seth Dawson of the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention was worried about the potential for increased youth access to cannabis. Dawson was also concerned the legislation would allow marijuana to be grown, produced and consumed without regulations related to safety.
The legislation would require that plants and marijuana produced from the plants be marked with the person’s name, date of birth, address, planting date, and harvest date.