Washington State is on the verge of becoming the latest state to allow its residents to grow cannabis plants at home for personal use. A bill that would permit adults 21 and older to cultivate up to four plants per person, or 10 plants per household, passed a House committee on January 29, 2024. The bill, HB 2194, is now headed to the House Appropriations Committee for further consideration.
A Long-Awaited Change
Washington State was one of the first states to legalize cannabis for recreational use in 2012, but it has remained one of the few states that does not allow home cultivation. Currently, only registered medical marijuana patients can grow a limited number of plants for their own use, with a maximum of six plants per person, or 15 plants with a physician’s approval.
The bill’s sponsor, Representative Shelley Kloba, said that the proposed change is overdue and would align Washington with other states that have legalized cannabis. “This is a long time coming,” Kloba said. “It really does emphasize that it is for personal use only. Many other states have done it. It is time for us to do it.”
According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), more than a dozen states, including neighboring Oregon, allow adults to grow cannabis at home for personal use. Some of the benefits of home cultivation include the ability to choose the type of plant, the option to avoid pesticides, and the potential to save money.
A Social Equity Issue
The bill also received support from the state’s Social Equity in Cannabis Task Force, which was created in 2020 to increase the participation of Black and Latino residents in the cannabis industry. The task force recommended legalizing home cultivation for recreational use in its 2022 report, citing data that showed that Black and Latino people are disproportionately arrested and convicted for growing marijuana in amounts that would be legal under the bill.
“Legalizing residential cannabis cultivation for recreational use would reduce arrests and felony convictions that disproportionately harm Black people, while also potentially increasing social equity applicant eligibility,” the task force wrote in its report.
The bill would also allow people who have been convicted of growing cannabis in the past to petition for the expungement of their records, as long as the amount they grew was within the limits of the bill.
A Controversial Proposal
Not everyone is in favor of the bill, however. Some opponents have expressed concerns about the possible negative impacts of home cultivation on communities, such as increased odor, fire hazards, theft, and diversion to the black market. They also argued that home cultivation could reduce the tax revenue from cannabis sales at licensed dispensaries, which fund various programs and services in the state.
The bill would require home growers to follow certain rules, such as keeping the plants out of public view, securing them from minors and unauthorized access, and labeling them with their name and address. The bill would also prohibit home growers from selling, distributing, or donating their cannabis to anyone else. Violating these rules could result in civil or criminal penalties, depending on the severity of the offense.
The bill faces an uncertain future in the House Appropriations Committee, where it stalled last year. If it passes the committee, it would still need to be approved by the full House and the Senate before it reaches the governor’s desk.