A bill that would have allowed adults in Washington State to grow their own marijuana plants at home has died in a House committee without getting a vote. The proposal, HB 1614, faced opposition from law enforcement, public health officials and some cannabis industry representatives, who raised concerns about diversion, safety and regulation.
The Fate of HB 1614
HB 1614 was introduced by Rep. Shelley Kloba (D), who argued that home cultivation of marijuana was a matter of personal freedom and social equity. The bill would have permitted people 21 and older to grow up to six plants for personal use, with a maximum of 15 per household. Plants would need to be labeled, grown out of public view and not “readily smelled” outside the premises.
The bill was referred to the House Regulated Substances and Gaming Committee, where it had a public hearing on January 19, 2024. The committee heard testimony from supporters and opponents of the bill, but did not take any action on it before the deadline for policy bills to pass out of committee on February 9, 2024. This effectively killed the bill for this legislative session.
The Arguments For and Against Homegrow
Supporters of HB 1614 claimed that home cultivation of marijuana was a civil right and a logical extension of the legalization of recreational marijuana sales in Washington State, which voters approved in 2012. They also pointed out that Washington was one of the few states where adult-use cannabis was legal but homegrow was not, and that the bill would align the state with the recommendations of the Social Equity in Cannabis Task Force, which called for the legalization of up to six plants per adult in its December 2022 report.
Opponents of HB 1614 argued that home cultivation of marijuana would pose risks to public safety, public health and the regulated cannabis market. They cited the potential for increased access by minors, theft, fire hazards, mold, pesticides and environmental impacts. They also expressed doubts about the enforceability and oversight of the bill, and the impact it would have on the tax revenue and quality standards of the legal cannabis industry.
The Future of Homegrow in Washington State
Although HB 1614 failed to advance this year, the issue of homegrow is likely to resurface in future legislative sessions, as more states legalize both recreational marijuana sales and home cultivation. According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), 18 states and the District of Columbia currently allow adults to grow their own marijuana plants, with varying limits and regulations. Some of these states, such as Illinois and New Jersey, legalized homegrow after initially prohibiting it.
Washington State lawmakers who support homegrow may try to reintroduce a similar bill next year, or seek to amend an existing bill that deals with cannabis policy. They may also look for ways to address the concerns of the opponents, such as adding more restrictions or safeguards to the bill, or creating a licensing or registration system for home growers. Alternatively, they may pursue a ballot initiative to let the voters decide on the issue, as they did with the legalization of recreational marijuana sales in 2012.