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Washington Legislature weighs measure to allow home-grown marijuana

Nearly a dozen states have legalized recreational marijuana, and of those, Washington is the only one that doesn’t also allow people to grow the plant at home.

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Marijuana activists have been pushing for home grows for years. There are now bi-partisan companion bills this session in the House and Senate to get it done.

The proposal is similar to what other states have done, and would allow anyone over 21 years old to grow up to six plants at home, with a maximum of 15 in shared homes, with no tracking or permitting required. This runs against proposals the Liquor and Cannabis Board came up with a couple of years ago.

“This bill is for responsible adults — we’re not talking about people who want to exceed the law for nefarious purposes,” argued activist Don Skakie in statements given before the Legislature.

Others argued that it wouldn’t hurt the commercial legalized weed market either.

“I submit that it will improve the marketplace, similar to how the homebrew movement has created a robust microbrew industry in our fine state,” activist John Kingsbury said.

Chris Thompson with the Liquor and Cannabis Board, though, voiced concerns, about federal intervention, and home grows providing cover for illegal grows.

“We anticipate there would be complaints — we do not have the resources to exercise enforcement in this area,” he noted.

Steve Strahan with the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs wasn’t worried about personal use, but did have other concerns

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“It’s about enforcement in a permissive environment,” he said. “And does this make large scale illicit marijuana grows? And does it make low level drug-dealing even more difficult to investigate and prosecute?”

The state patrol echoed those concerns, and also pointed out that it didn’t know how it would enforce the six-plant limit.

The legislation would also come with caveats: First, landlords would be able to prohibit home grows in their buildings, and second, no one would be permitted to sell the marijuana they grow.

Among the states that currently allow home grow operations (with limits on the amount of plants) are Alaska, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, and Maine.

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