Want to be able to grow pot at home? State seeking comments on the idea

by: DEBBIE COCKRELL, The News Tribune Updated:

Prepare for the “you can brew at home but not grow pot” arguments to begin.

Washington, for now, is the only state among the eight with legalized recreational cannabis that does not allow home grows outside of medical purposes by authorized patients or registered cooperatives.

Now you can weigh in on whether that’s still the way to go.

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The state Liquor and Cannabis Board will hold a public hearing on the issue Oct. 4, during its regular 10 a.m. board meeting at the agency headquarters, 3000 Pacific Ave., Olympia.

“The agency is actively engaging other states, the public, the industry and stakeholders,” board director Rick Garza said in a news release announcing the hearing. “We know there are many perspectives to this issue and we want to ensure they are captured for our report and recommendations.”

Legislation enacted this year directs the board to “conduct a study of regulatory options for the legalization of marijuana plant possession and cultivation by recreational marijuana users,” according to the news release.

“The study must take into account the Cole Memo, issued by the United State Department of Justice in 2013, which outlines the federal government’s enforcement priorities in states where medical or recreational marijuana has been legalized or decriminalized, according to the news release. “The study and recommendations are due to the Legislature on Dec. 1.”

Washington’s medical and recreational markets aligned in July 2016 to bring the unregulated medical market into compliance with state regulations as part of the 2015 Cannabis Patient Protection Act.

At present, medical home grows by state-registered patients are limited to six plants, or 15 with a doctor’s note. (Authorized patients not in the state registry are limited to four plants.)

Up to four registered patients can create a co-op if local jurisdiction allows. Once registered with the Liquor Control Board, a co-op can grow 24 to 60 plants, depending on what the registered patients have approval for from their doctors.

With medical home grow rules in place, now it’s time to consider what, if anything, to allow for recreational consumers.

Three options are under consideration for the recreational market. Two offer different types of oversight for the home-growing operations, while the third keeps rules status quo.

Details include:

Option 1: Tightly regulated home grows that would require a permit to allow four plants maximum per household.

The plants would be entered in the state traceability system, and there would be requirements for security and preventing youth access and diversion, among other regulations.

Jurisdiction would be shared between the Liquor Control Board and local authorities, with a provision allowing law enforcement to seize and destroy all plants if beyond limit.

Option 2: Local control of home grows based on statewide standards, including security and other requirements to prevent youth access and diversion with a limit of four plants per household.

This option does not require plants to be entered into the traceability network, but does require a permit to possess plants, as in Option 1.

The state would set minimum requirements, but local jurisdictions could be more restrictive, and home grows would be prohibited without local permission.

Note: Options 1 and 2 allow recreational growers to buy plants from licensees as long as growers have a permit.

Option 3: Maintains the status quo with recreational home grows prohibited. Home grows for medical marijuana would be allowed, as would cooperatives.

More details explaining the options are listed at bit.ly/2eWZ1OX

Given meeting space and parking limitations, the board is encouraging written public comment, submitted by email through Oct. 11 at rules@lcb.wa.gov or by mail to P.O. Box 43080, Olympia, WA 98504.

The hearing also will be streamed online via WebEx. The live link will be posted to the board meeting webpage of LCB’s website at lcb.wa.gov at least 24 hours before the meeting.

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