Cannabis Chronicles

Another Hit to Washington Home Growing

Companion bills to legalize recreational cannabis cultivation never took root in Olympia.

By Benjamin Cassidy February 14, 2020

Don't buy grow lights anytime soon.

Another year, another pair of bipartisan home growing bills denied in the Washington legislature. House Bill 1131 and Senate Bill 5155 didn’t make it to the floor at the 2020 legislative session, one year after meeting the same fate in Olympia. The bills would have allowed weed enthusiasts (21 and older) to grow up to six plants at their homes for recreational use. Currently, Washingtonians can grow as many as 15 plants for personal medical use.

The legislation’s failure prolongs a cannabis oddity in Washington. While the state was technically the first to legalize recreational weed in 2012 (put that in your pipe, Colorado), Washington and Illinois are the country’s only states that permit recreational cannabis use but not home growing. (And Illinois just legalized this year.) Why is Washington averse to home growing? Some point to fears about enforcing cultivation limits and increasing crime. Others take an economic approach, suggesting that home growing will hurt the state’s cannabis businesses and, in turn, the state’s tax revenue from those retailers. At the House bill’s Committee on Appropriations hearing Feb. 5, however, Uncle Ike’s owner Ian Eisenberg didn’t sound concerned about that at all. He spoke in favor of the legislation.

“Many of us have hobby home vegetable gardens, but it doesn’t affect what we purchase from the grocery stores,” the Seattle pot titan said. “If anything, I appreciate what is available in the stores and buy more.”

Too much of that kind of support may have actually been part of the problem this year. According to Rep. Brian Blake, one of the House bill’s sponsors, the sheer number of people who testified during the hearing may have led to its dismissal. During this year’s abbreviated session, time is of the essence.

“The volume frustrated the committee,” Blake wrote in an email.

Appropriations Committee chair Rep. Tim Ormsby admitted that he “chewed out” Blake, a fellow Democrat, for the lengthy testimony but doubted that it played a role in denying the bill a vote, according to The Stranger.

So next year, stay home if you want home grow to pass, I guess.

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