By Miguel a.k.a. Miggy420
Marijuana is legal in Washington State but only if you want to buy some, not grow it. As “legalization” progresses and evolves from medical to recreational in each state, the laws around legalization are not uniform from state to state. People are still being prosecuted for growing a plant, including in Washington where it is a felony to grow even one plant unless you are an authorized medical cannabis patient.
Washington State has had medical cannabis on the books since 1998. Recreational use and possession came about on Dec. 1, 2013, and yet we still don’t have a right to get to know this plant we consume more intimately, by growing it at home.
Homegrow isn’t just about a bunch of hippies who want to smoke their stash. It is about personal liberties. Legally, medical cannabis is not, and has never been, a get out of jail free card. Growing with a medical authorization is still illegal, but with an affirmative defense that must be asserted in court. Conversely, if there was a law allowing plant limits,we become one step closer to being truly legal regardless of whether someone is a medical or social consumer.
Why No Homegrow?
The answer is simple: Homegrowing was never written into law. According to Alison Holcomb (I-502 architect), even though home grows were not written into Initiative 502, adult home grows are in the spirit of the law. Not putting homegrows in the original initiative was strategic. Polling showed that a small but critical percentage of the voters were uncomfortable at that time with the idea of permitting all adults to grow. Because of that small percentage of uncertain voters, I-502 supporters omitted home growing from the Initiative in order to pass some form of legalization. Since no state had legalized recreational cannabis before, the initiative was intentionally written conservatively.
What citizens did not know at that time was that medical legalization had created a sustaining market, included farmers markets and the selling of seeds and clones.
When Washington State legalized medical cannabis, it grew from patients helping patients to small collectives then eventually to retail collectives and finally licensed retail stores. But the origins of medical marijuana law are all based on the legal patient status of “illegal with an affirmative defense.” From approximately 2009 to the implementation of SB5052 in 2015, citizens ran businesses based on an affirmative defensewhich,unfortunately, did not help currently imprisoned collective owners like Lance Gloor who was raided and charged with federal felonies in 2011 and who is now serving his third year of a 10-year sentence for following Washington State’s medical laws. Homegrow laws not only help the consumer, but everyone involved with cannabis in Washington State.
Legalization has been a long and arduous fight since the inception of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act that began the process of cannabis prohibition. I believe this is because there is no business in creating personal freedoms, but there is business in the case of a state that has discovered big tax revenues coming from a recreational infrastructure. I say this hoping individuals involved with the recreational will do more like promote the efforts of two guys who have been pushing for home grows for the past few years.
Don Skakie and John Kingsbury have been fighting for homegrow rights for everyone for the past few years, never asking for money but paying for the effort out-of-pocket. I mention out-of-pocket because Washington State is full of conspiracy theorists but the truth is, these are two guys trying to fill in the gaps of our legal use law.
In settling on a homegrow bill, they settled on six plants for the homegrow because that’s the amount already accepted in the majority of legal states both for medical andrecreational use. The six-plant number is not the ideal number; unfortunately, it is only a politically sellable number. We all agree that six plants are not enough, but six is better than none at this point seven years later after recreational legalization.
We hear the same stale arguments against allowing homegrows but none of them hold weight in water.
How will the police enforce this? Well, it will be complaint-driven as it is now but if an officershows up, you have the law on your side or not, pending on how many plants you’re growing. More concerns addressed at www.homegrowwashington.com. If you feel that you or anybody in the State of Washington deserves the right to grow cannabis, please visit the site.
I would be remiss if I did not say “thank you” to Washington State’s NORML and Seattle Hempfest for supporting homegrow. NORML’s Bailey Hirschburg helped with lobbying and Seattle Hempfest has helped to create a database for I-502 businesses in support of homegrow (yes, there are some against it).
HB1131 and SB5155
Passing a law is not as simple as putting out a tweet unless you’re the president. The bicameral process is one we have in Washington State and in most of the United States. This means that a bill has to pass through both the House and Senate before it can be signed by the governor.
You can have one single bill that gets walked through both and this can take years or you can run similar bills simultaneously that merge as the one bill at the end. This is what has been done. Presently HB1131 has been stalled in the Gaming and Commerce Committee but with a new chair, we are hopeful that this will get a new hearing and be voted out of committee in January and continue on.
What Can You Do?
When the Capital gets back into session, we have high hopes for HB1131 getting through with the new chair but we also need you to let your representative know that youwant homegrows in Washington. Visit http://homegrowwashington.com for talking points.
If you’re still not sure of what to say or how to, send John and Don an email at HomegrowWashington@gmail.com. These two retirees are willing to meet with you and your representative to discuss why there should be homegrow rights but this can’t happen without you.
Miguel a.k.a. Miggy420 hasbeen a cannabis activist for over 20 years, from donating to campaigns he read about in High Times as a teenager to being signature gatherer for Prop 215. He has also helped get cases dropped, or at least helped people get more lenient sentences, by bringing attention to their cases. It was 10 years ago that he decided to use his passion for writing toward shedding light in the dark of this thing we called prohibition. For the past 10 years, he has been writing on cannabis policy and culture on various websites and publications. He has been doing this so long people that confuse him as a cannabis reporter, but he likes to consider himself an American citizen using his voice, his power for good. “While I have your attention, look up ‘jury nullification,’” Miguel advises. “It’s your right to say ‘not guilty’ if you don’t agree with the law.”