In October, The Stranger broke the news that state regulators had a plan to repeal most of Washington State's voter-approved 1998 medical marijuana law, a deal that included prohibiting patients from growing plants at home. Patients voiced outrage, of course. The state liquor board, which was in on the strategy, has since taken a baby step backward, suggesting patients could grow three mature plants instead of the 15 currently allowed.
Pardon me if this sounds ungrateful, but what the hell are state regulators thinking?
Voters didn't declare a new war on medical cannabis growers when they passed Initiative 502, which legalized recreational pot. Legislators should not change cultivation rules for patients at all. Suggesting we send police and prosecutors after the sick and dying—who grow cannabis with a doctor's recommendation—is not just immoral, it is the opposite of what voters wanted. They wanted an end to prohibition and a means to undercut an illegal drug market.
Which is why all adults should be allowed to grow three pot plants at home, even if they are not medical marijuana patients.
That would mirror Colorado's legalization law. Moreover, we actually need more marijuana than regulations currently allow.
As Seattle city attorney Pete Holmes pointed out in a letter to state regulators on December 3, onerous restrictions on pot stores mean there won't be enough retail outlets to meet Seattle's demand. Right now, only 21 stores will be allowed in the entire city. "We urge you to award at least 50 such retail licenses initially," Holmes wrote. He wasn't calling for home growing, but he should be—because that's another way we can make legalization work and undercut the illegal pot market.
This would be like home-brewing beer, which is legal. Fermenting a keg isn't a threat to the state's sin taxes—ostensibly the liquor board's concern—and a few pot plants in our windows wouldn't either.
Some lawmakers will argue that voters didn't intend to allow home gardens, but that's a specious argument. Many lawmakers in Olympia support changing the law to vacate marijuana misdemeanors and to license medical pot shops. If they're already changing the pot law to be more practical, they should make another practical change by allowing all adult recreational users to grow three plants each.