Of the eight states that allow recreational marijuana use, Washington is the only state that forbids marijuana home-growing. State lawmakers instructed the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) to study the issue and make a recommendation on marijuana home-growing by December 1.
The LCB's Washington State Home Grows Study Report was released on November 29. It includes three recommendations, ranging from strictly permitted and controlled home-growing to a continued ban on recreational home-growing.
The Board's Recommendations on Marijuana Home-Growing
Washington lawmakers told the LCB that any recommendations must comply with the federal Department of Justice's "Cole Memo." While marijuana is illegal at the federal level, the 2013 Cole Memo provided guidance to federal prosecutors regarding state-level recreational marijuana activities.
The memo indicated that state-level legalization experiments could proceed without federal interference, as long as states continued to adhere to federal enforcement priorities, such as preventing interstate marijuana trafficking and keeping marijuana out of the hands of children and drug cartels.
According to the LCB report, the Board studied a variety of options. It dismissed all but three options as inconsistent with the federal Cole Memo. The three options the LCB recommends are:
- Option 1: Allow recreational home-growing of no more than four marijuana plants per household. Home growers would be required to have a permit and their activities would be subject to strict oversight and regulation.
- Option 2: Allow recreational home-growing as in Option 1, but allow local jurisdictions (cities and counties) to enforce recreational home-growing activities. Local jurisdictions could also opt in or opt out of allowing recreational home-growing.
- Option 3: Continue to prohibit recreational home-growing.
If Washington lawmakers decide to move ahead with recreational home-growing legislation, they will do so without clear guidance from the LCB. As the Seattle Times describes it, the LCB's "equivocal" report "came back with options ranging from four plants to none."
Medical vs. Recreational Marijuana Growing in Washington
In the interim, home-growing marijuana for recreational use remains illegal in Washington. Only specially-licensed Washington farmers may grow marijuana for recreational use. Licensed farmers may sell marijuana to retail stores. Marijuana retailers must also be licensed and fulfill certain requirements.
Medical marijuana is subject to different rules and restrictions. Under Washington's Medical Marijuana Act, qualifying patients can grow up to six marijuana plants for their personal use.
Outside of these permitted growing and retail operations, marijuana use in Washington is governed by the Uniform Controlled Substances Act. The illegal distribution or possession of marijuana is a violation of the Act, also called a Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act or VUCSA crime.
VUCSA charges are serious. Simple possession of small amounts of marijuana can result in criminal charges. If the accused person is a juvenile, has a prior criminal record, or there is evidence of sales activity or weapons use, the consequences can be more severe.
Washington does offer a number of sentencing alternatives in drug crime and VUCSA cases. These include diversion programs that offer the option of entering a drug treatment program, first-time offender waivers that reduce the amount of jail time for drug convictions, and other options.An experienced drug crimes defense lawyer can review all the evidence against you and fight to get your marijuana charges reduced or dismissed.