A bill to allow Washington State adults to grow marijuana at home cleared its first legislative hurdle on Thursday, passing out of the House Regulated Substances and Gaming Committee on a 7–4 vote.
The proposal, HB 1614, would make it legal for people 21 and older to grow up to six plants for personal use, with a maximum of 15 per household. Plants would need to be labeled, grown out of public view and not “readily smelled” outside the premises.
Washington is one of only a few other states, along with Illinois and New Jersey, where commercial cannabis is legal but home cultivation by consumers remains prohibited—and it’s the only legal marijuana state where the practice is a felony.
The bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Shelley Kloba (D), said before Thursday’s vote that the legislation “moves us toward an evolution where we can start looking at this plant as a plant.”
“It is legal to purchase products in the store, so it should also be legal to grow it at home with sensible sideboards,” she said.
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Kloba also noted that the policy change was a specific recommendation of the state’s Social Equity in Cannabis Task Force, which in a December 2022 report called for the legalization of up to six plants per adult. The report further recommended reclassifying the cultivation of seven to 99 plants as a misdemeanor and vacating past cultivation convictions, though Kloba’s bill does not include those changes.
Thursday’s vote fell largely along party lines, winning approval from all six Democrats on the committee and a lone Republican, Rep. Kevin Waters. Another GOP member, Rep. Greg Cheney, said he’d intended to support the bill but decided to vote against it after Kloba withdrew an amendment that would have required marijuana be grown in locked areas that allow access only by an authorized person.
“I was prepared to vote yes on this bill with some of the safety mechanisms around the amendment,” he said. “Hopefully we can work with the sponsor around some of the security issues if it gets to the floor.”
As approved by the committee, no license would be necessary for adults to grow up to the six-plant limit. Each plant would need to be labeled with the grower’s name, date of birth and address, as well as when it was planted. Containers of more than one ounce of homegrown marijuana would need to be labeled with that information plus the date the cannabis was harvested.
The state already allows registered medical patients to grow six plants at home, or up to 15 with a health professional’s recommendation.
Landlords could prohibit homegrow by renters and lessees under the bill.
The legislation would make it a civil infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $500, if a minor uses or obtains a grower’s marijuana, unless the products were stored in a secured area or container. If a minor is involved in a DUI after consuming unsecured cannabis, the grower would face a fine of up to $750.
State marijuana regulators would have no responsibility or authority to enforce homegrow laws, although they could assist at another law enforcement agency’s request.
Washington State lawmakers have failed to legalize home marijuana cultivation despite a handful of bills being introduced as far back as 2015. Kloba, HB 1614’s lead sponsor, brought a similar bill in 2021 that also passed out of the Regulated Substances and Gaming Committee but then languished.
In an interview this week, Kloba told Marijuana Moment that she’s been working to find ways to secure more of her colleagues’ votes without alienating other members. She considered adding further restrictions to the bill, for example, to win support from law-and-order politicians, but worried those rules could rankle both small-government conservatives as well as progressives concerned about racial disparities in enforcement.
“It’s been a rollercoaster with this bill this year,” she said. The committee was scheduled to vote on the measure last week but held off because supporters weren’t sure they had enough votes.
Struggling to know how to proceed, Kloba said she’s even considered stripping back the new proposal and rerunning last year’s slightly simpler bill.
“My big motivation is: It’s not illegal to buy it; why should it be illegal to grow it?” she said.
Despite past bills’ failures, Kloba said she’s seeing signs that the landscape is changing. One of the proposal’s most stubborn opponents has been the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, which has testified against home cultivation at virtually every opportunity.
At public comment on the bill earlier this month, the group’s deputy policy director, Taylor Gardner, said she’d still prefer that lawmakers keep cannabis “in a well regulated commercial setting.” But Gardner also gave recommendations for how lawmakers should regulate homegrow if they do ultimately decide to allow it.
Though it was a minor shift, Kloba saw the constructive comments as symbolic. “She really buried the lede,” the lawmaker said. “I thought that alone was significant.”
Kloba also acknowledged that regulators at the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB), who in the past have expressed hesitance at legalizing home cultivation, have so far been quiet.
“They really have not weighed in on it,” she said, saying that may be because the bill specifically excludes LCB from enforcement responsibilities around homegrow.
The panel advanced two other cannabis-related bills at Thursday’s hearing. One, HB 1650, would allow local governments to enact bans on marijuana businesses only with voters’ approval. The other, HB 1822, would allow operators of short-term rentals, such as AirBnbs, to provide adult guests with small amounts of complimentary alcohol or cannabis.
Committee members also heard public comment on HB 1790, which would expand the state’s relatively new social equity program for cannabis business licenses.
Earlier this week, the same committee approved an amended measure that would allow Washington marijuana businesses to engage in interstate commerce once changes in federal cannabis policy allow it. A companion bill on the Senate side cleared its own committee hurdle last month.
Bills to promote social equity in the cannabis industry and provide employment protections for adults who use marijuana have also advanced through initial Senate committee votes this session.
Separately, state lawmakers are reconsidering drug possession penalties and related issues. Following a state Supreme Court decision in February 2021 that invalidated the state’s felony law against drug possession, lawmakers enacted a temporary criminalization policy that is set to expire on July 1.