Liquor and Cannabis Board hears public comment on recreational marijuana home grows

Agency tasked by new law to conduct study and make recommendations to Legislature by Dec. 1.

OLYMPIA – More than 30 people gave testimony before the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) at a hearing Oct. 4 on whether the state should allow home grows of recreational marijuana.

Most of the speakers favored allowing home grows, but there were some who worried that home grows would make it easier for under age youth to access marijuana, and that home growing would interrupt the highly regulated recreational marijuana industry now operating in the state.

Most of those who spoke favored the study’s “Option 1” which allows local control over home grow marijuana operations.

The public hearing came after the State Legislation directed the WSLCB to “conduct a study of regulatory options for the legalization of marijuana plant possession and cultivation by recreational marijuana users.”

The study takes into account the “Cole Memo,” issued by the United State Department of Justice in 2013, which outlines the federal government’s enforcement priorities in states where medical or recreational marijuana has been legalized or decriminalized. The study and recommendations are due to the Legislature on Dec. 1.

“The agency is actively engaging other states, the public, the industry and stakeholders. We know there are many perspectives to this issue and we want to ensure they are captured for our report and recommendations,” said agency director Rick Garza.

The WSLCB sought comments on three options at the public hearing:

• Option 1: Tightly Regulated Recreational Marijuana Home Grows

This option allows recreational home grows under a strict state regulatory framework based on the Cole Memo:

Requires a permit;

Four plants maximum per household;

All plants must be entered into the state traceability system;

Requirements for security, preventing youth access, preventing diversion, etc.;

Jurisdiction is shared between WSLCB and local authorities

Statutory provision that allows law enforcement to seize and destroy all plants if beyond limit;

Allows recreational growers to purchase plants from licensees as long as growers have a permit;

Same restrictions on processing marijuana that apply to medical marijuana (no combustible processing).

• Option 2: Local Control of Recreational Marijuana Home Grows

This option is based on statewide standards including requirements for security, preventing youth access, preventing diversion, etc.;

Limits plants to 4 per household;

Allows recreational growers to purchase plants from licensees as long as growers have a permit.

Requires a permit to possess plants.

Difference from Option 1

Does not require plants to be entered into traceability

State sets minimum requirements. Local jurisdictions can be more restrictive.

Authorized, controlled, and enforced by local jurisdictions;

Home grows are prohibited without local permission;

• Option 3. Recreational Home Grows are Prohibited

This option preserves the status quo. Recreational home grows continue to remain prohibited:

A regulated market exists today with statewide access;

Recreational home grows may provide a cover for diversion;

The Cole Memo is concerned with diversion, youth access, and the criminal element;

Home grows for medical marijuana are allowed as well as cooperatives.

Among the eight states that have legalized recreational marijuana, Washington is the only state that does not allow marijuana home grows. Washington allows authorized patients to have limited grows for medical purposes or to be part of a four-member medical marijuana cooperative if the cooperative registers with the WSLCB and the local jurisdiction does not object.