In Washington state, if you are over the age of 21, you can buy cannabis at any number of retail stores. If you have an authorization from your medical provider, you can grow your own cannabis plants. But without a medical authorization, growing your own cannabis plants at home could lead to up to five years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.

Washington made history in 2012, becoming one the first states to legalize recreational cannabis use with the passage of Initiative 502. There was some understandable trepidation as we stepped onto this new horizon, and allowing cannabis to be grown at home was not part of the initiative. This is one area where we have allowed other states to test the waters.

Turns out the water is warm. Since 2012, 13 other states and the District of Columbia have joined Washington and Colorado in legalizing recreational cannabis use. Of those states, 11 and the District of Columbia allow a limited number of plants to be grown at home. Back in 2012, we were concerned that home-grow could potentially fuel illegal activity or become a nuisance for communities. Those fears have not come to pass in other states. Simply put, this is an antiquated policy that Washington needs to address.

In this state, it is not against the law to brew your own beer or grow your own grapes and make wine. It is time that people in our state who are interested in growing this plant at home, whether for medicinal or recreational use, be allowed to do so in reasonable quantities with common-sense safeguards in place.

House Bill 1019 includes those safeguards. The bill limits each person to growing six plants, with a 15 plant per household limit. It will not allow cannabis to be grown at a home day care or foster home. Landlords would be able to prevent renters from growing cannabis on their property if they so choose. To prevent cannabis gardens from becoming a nuisance, this bill creates a new civil infraction with fines of up to $50 if cannabis is grown within view of the public or if cannabis odor can be readily smelled. This will protect the grower and general public.

Some worry about the hit that our tax revenues might take if people are allowed to grow their own cannabis. It should be noted that the nonpartisan staff at the Office of Financial Management have found that the bill would have no fiscal impacts. But that begs the question: Is losing tax revenue a legitimate reason to incarcerate someone? At a time when we are working toward ending mass incarceration, it makes no sense to punish people with five years in prison for growing a product that is regulated, taxed and sold at stores across the state. The incongruity of the punishment questions the rationality of our entire criminal justice system. It is time to do away with this relic of the war on drugs and remove this crime from the books.  

The Legislature has considered this bipartisan bill for several years now, and the momentum behind it is growing. This is a bill whose time has come. It should not be illegal to grow a plant when so many products made from it can easily be purchased. Please join me in support of allowing people to grow cannabis at home.