The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) recently announced that this month, it will be holding a public hearing to receive public input as to whether the state should allow recreational cannabis cultivation at residences. Under current state law, medical cannabis patients are allowed, pursuant to state law, to grow a limited amount of cannabis at home. But that ability has not been extended to recreational consumers.
“The LCB must make their recommendations regarding recreational home grows to the legislature by December 1, 2017.”
Recent legislation, however, directed the LCB to “conduct a study of regulatory options for the legalization of marijuana plant possession and cultivation by recreational marijuana users,” taking into account the Cole Memo. This memo was issued by the United States Department of Justice in 2013, and sets forth the federal government’s eight primary enforcement priorities with respect to state-legalized medical and adult-use cannabis. The eight priorities are as follows:
- Preventing distribution of cannabis to minors.
- Preventing cannabis revenue from funding criminal enterprises, gangs, or cartels.
- Preventing cannabis from moving out of states where it is legal to states where it is not.
- Preventing use of state-legal cannabis sales as a cover for illegal activity.
- Preventing violence and use of firearms in growing or distributing cannabis.
- Preventing drugged driving and other adverse public health consequences.
- Preventing growing of cannabis on public lands.
- Preventing cannabis possession or use on federal property.
The LCB must make its recommendations regarding recreational home cultivation to the legislature by December 1, 2017. And according to LCB Director Rick Garza, “The [LCB] is actively engaging other states, the public, the industry and stakeholders” in order to make those recommendations.
The LCB will be considering three options for regulating recreational home grows, which are proposed as follows:
- Tightly Regulated Recreational Cannabis Home Cultivation
This option would allow recreational home cultivation under strict state regulatory framework, meaning that recreational home growers would need to obtain a state permit and would be limited to four plants per household that would need to be entered into the state traceability system to avoid diversion into the black market. Home growers would also be subject to security requirements, and they would need to purchase plants from licensed growers only.
- Local Control of Recreational Cannabis Home Cultivation
This option would also include statewide standards for security, preventing youth access, preventing diversion and would require a permit. Home cultivation would be limited to four plants per household, and plants would need to be purchased from licensed growers. There would be no statewide traceability requirement under this option, but local permission would be required.
- Recreational Home Cultivation is Prohibited
This option would preserve the status quo, allowing home grows only for authorized medical cannabis patients, but prohibiting recreational home growing. This option may be adopted if the state finds home grows to pose a risk for diversion of cannabis, youth access and criminal activity in contravention of the Cole Memo.
Currently, of all the states that have legalized recreational cannabis, only Washington prohibits home grows. Given this inconsistency with the regulations of other states, it seems likely the state will adopt rules to allow and regulate recreational cannabis cultivation at residences.