Washington is one of the only places in America where recreational pot is legal but, at the same time, it’s illegal for adults to grow a few pot plants at home. But, thanks to a bill that is moving through the state legislature, that could soon change.
This year's attempt to give every adult in the state the right to grow pot at home is currently being considered in the state's House of Representatives. This year’s legislative session is a short one—it ends on March, 12 after only 60 days of session—so the clock is ticking on passing this year’s home grow bill, HB 1131. It was voted out of the House’s Commerce and Gaming Committee two weeks ago and sent to the House Committee on Appropriations, where it now has a hearing at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
All this committee talk may sound impossibly boring but this is actually further than a home grow bill has ever gotten, according to Rep. Brian Blake, a Democrat from Aberdeen who has been sponsoring the home grow bill for years.
“We have never before gotten a hearing scheduled in appropriations or finance [committees],” Blake told The Stranger on Monday. “I’m feeling pretty positive.”
Blake's bill would legalize growing up to six plants at home per person (with a limit of 15 plants total for any given household). It wouldn't require any kind of license or permit, but adults would not be able to harvest a new crop of homegrown pot if they currently posses more than a pound of pot.
If you want Washington's adults to have the legal right to grow pot house plants then you should call your state legislator and urge them to vote for this home grow bill. Or, even better, send written testimony to a hearing taking place on Wednesday afternoon in Olympia. OR, EVEN BETTER, actually show up in person at this hearing on Wednesday and give testimony in person.
John Kingsbury, a cannabis advocate who has been lobbying in Olympia for a home grow bill for years, was elated when he heard that the bill finally got a Committee on Appropriations hearing.
“We are now officially further than a home grow bill has ever been. Woo Hoo!” Kingsbury said in a text message.
This might be further than it’s ever been before, but there’s still a lot more hoops this bill has to jump through before you can legally grow pot at home. The bill will need a second hearing and a vote in Appropriations before the committee cut off next Tuesday.
The bill then moves to the House Rules Committee, where it needs to get voted out and sent to the floor. Then it’s up to the Democratic leadership in the House (which is under new leadership now that Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) took over the Speaker of the House position from longtime milquetoast Rep. Frank Chopp) as to whether they want to schedule the bill for a floor vote.
Then, if it passes the House, it will need to head over to the Senate where it will run through a similar process. That’s a lot of hoops still to jump through, but longtime Olympia watchers will tell you that even if there’s a long road ahead, the fact that the bill is still alive and moving right now is a good sign.
And there’s tons of support for this common sense law.
When I polled the 21 lawmakers who represent Seattle in Olympia, a majority said they support legalizing home grows. Only one lawmaker, an anti-pot Democrat Rep. Lauren Davis, who is currently trying to ban pot dabs and pot vapes, said she opposed the bill. Three of Seattle’s lawmakers—Senator Bob Hasegawa, Senator Rebecca Saldaña, and Representative Cindy Ryu—are even sponsors of this home grow bill.
And it’s not just Democrats who like the bill. Both the House and the Senate bills are bi-partisan and the lead sponsor on the Senate home grow bill is Sen. Maureen Walsh, a Republican from Walla Walla.
Even the Everett Herald Editorial Board—hardly the home of heady stoners—is supportive of home grow, saying the current laws show a “bias against ‘green thumbs’” and calling for home grow so people who are concerned about the quality of their pot can grow their own. They also point out that there’s no reason to think legalizing home grow will increase youth access to pot.
The legal availability of cannabis in Washington state hasn’t shown to have increased its use by minors, according to the state’s Healthy Youth Survey; in fact, marijuana use among youths has shown declines in recent surveys. Allowing marijuana plants, particularly in homes where cannabis already is consumed, isn’t likely to increase the risk of kids’ exposure.
This year’s short legislative session means lawmakers are busy with so many things that they might forget how this important common sense law. Rep. Timm Ormsby, the Democrat from Spokane who chairs the House Committee on Appropriations, told The Stranger last week that he hadn’t yet read the bill but he said he's aware of it and considered it something “that it is worthy of due consideration.”
He will be presiding over Wednesday’s Appropriations hearing. If you want the right to grow a few pot plants at home if you choose, then you should make sure he knows you support it.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the proposed law instates a limit on how much pot an adult can possess at one time. The proposed law has a limit on how much an individual can possess when they harvest a new crop, not a limit on how much total useable pot can be possessed at any given time.