Washington State’s Home-Grown Cannabis Bill Tabled…Again
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Many may not remember, but it was eight years ago that Washington state staked its claim as being the first forward-thinking state (Colorado joined them) to legalize recreational marijuana use. More than a dozen states have since followed suit, and more are likely to follow any day now. (Lawmakers are calling for New Mexico to be the next one up.)
But even with all Washington state has done, being that ultimate pioneer for the cannabis industry, there is one remaining hurdle they just can’t seem to get over. Here we are in 2021, and it still remains that if you grow marijuana at home for your own recreational use, you are committing a felony.
There was a shiny star in the near future for the state. There was a proposal in the Legislature that moved forward and gained momentum each and every day that, if passed, would erase this felony off the board. This proposal would allow those 21 years and up to grow six marijuana plants in their households, with no more than 15 plants allowed in any given household.
Called House Bill 1019, this logical “next step” to be taken passed out of a legislative committee last month with bipartisan support and sent to the floor of the House Appropriations Committee. With many champions standing behind this bill – from civil liberties supporters to equity activists — not to mention, also by the legal marijuana industry, a majority of the state had hopes that homegrown cannabis could (and would) expand consumer interest, along the lines that home beer brewing caused the national microbrewery explosion that this country witnessed.
“We do not see it as being a competition,” said Lara Kaminsky, government affairs liaison with The Cannabis Alliance, a nonprofit marijuana trade association. “We saw how in the beer industry, when people started to brew at home, they became more sophisticated consumers.” Which is exactly what passing House Bill 1019 would do for the marijuana realm.
A lot of people remained unaware that the bill was also being quietly championed by a huge corporate giant who was lobbying for this to pass ASAP. The company, Scotts Miracle-Gro, is known for its green-labeled fertilizers, as well as other lawn and garden products that fill large areas of every Home Depot nationwide.
But even with all this support, the opponents voicing their concerns stuck out as well. Naysayers included a rainbow of substance abuse prevention groups, along with law enforcement groups and committees. They worried that by growing cannabis in the household, children would be exposed at a far greater rate and end up causing America’s youth to turn to drugs. An added concern was the smell. Yes. The odor of the plants wafting through neighborhoods that could offend those who had no interest in cannabis whatsoever and wanted to protect themselves and their children from the scent.
One such opposer was Priscilla Lisicich, Executive Director of Safe Streets, who said: “I don’t think this is good public policy.” This Tacoma-based public safety nonprofit came together stating there’s a definite risk that some homegrown marijuana could fuel black-market drug sales and make drug use among young adults “normal.” These words and opinions were also spurned, some believe, by the fact that the Legislature has repeatedly not given out the funding for prevention and education programs that was promised when marijuana became legal in the first place.
When it came to law enforcement groups, during a hearing on the bill, James McMahan took the floor. Being the policy director for the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, he said that enforcement of the bill would be almost impossible, seeing as that if there were violations happening regarding the amount of plants being grown, policemen would not know because they would only be able to discover this fact if they were granted permission to actually enter the home.
Supporters definitely argued that all of these objections were simply overblown. And that winding down the war on drugs in the case of marijuana is what is needed, being that the rest of the country is sure to follow suit.
The battle turned out to be unnecessary once again, however, because the Washington State Legislature dropped House Bill 1019; it is tabled for this session. Rep. Shelley Kloba said the House Appropriations Committee dropped it because they are prioritizing legislation focused on COVID-19 and economic relief, racial equity and climate change, and HB 1019 did not fit into one of these four categories. “It was not a high enough priority to consider in a year where we are hearing less legislation as a result of the pandemic,” said a spokesperson for Kloba.
Yes, the Washington State Legislature can take this matter up again, but not during the 2021-2022 session. And if it’s not passed next year, it will have to wait until the next biennium to be reintroduced.
In other words, Washington state still awaits a chance to get over this one hurdle. But the way it’s going, after eight long years and counting, it seems this may just be set in stone for life.
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