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Washington State Could Legalize Marijuana Home Cultivation Under New Bill

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Washington State lawmakers next month will yet again weigh whether to allow residents to grow marijuana at home, extending a debate in the legislature that’s stretched on for years.

A bipartisan bill introduced late last week would let adults 21 and older grow up to six cannabis plants and keep any marijuana produced by those plants. It’s a policy that resembles similar provisions in neighboring Oregon, as well as those in Colorado, California and nearly every other state that has legalized marijuana.

Whether the new bill has a fighting chance to be enacted, however, is anyone’s guess—though its sponsor says it will at least get a vote in the committee she chairs. Washington lawmakers have repeatedly introduced homegrow bills going back at least to 2015, but so far the measures have languished. Not a single one has made it to a full floor vote.

The latest bill, HB 1019, prefiled last week by Reps. Shelley Kloba (D) and Drew MacEwen (R), is nearly identical to last year’s legislation, which itself was a reintroduction of a measure that stalled a year before. Previous years saw separate efforts crash and burn, too.

Rep. Brian Blake (D), who previously sponsored the homegrow push, is no longer in office. “With him leaving the legislature in January, I did not want his efforts to go to waste,” Kloba told Marijuana Moment in an email. “I wanted to make sure this bill was introduced and heard.”

The measure would allow adults 21 and older to grow up to six cannabis plants per person, although no single household could grow more than 15 plants total. The plants would need to be clearly marked with the grower’s name, address and date of birth, as well as when they were planted. Growers would not need to register with the state or obtain any special license. (Medical cannabis patients registered in the state can already grow cannabis at home.)

Landlords could forbid renters or lessees from growing the plant on their property under the new bill, and all plants would need to be out of “the ordinary public view,” which essentially means not visible from public streets, sidewalks or adjacent properties.

Once harvested, homegrown marijuana would need to be labeled with the grower’s name, address and date of birth, along with the planting and harvest dates. Containers of less than an ounce of cannabis would be exempt from the labeling requirements.

The bill would also home growers to keep as much marijuana as their legal plants produce—likely more than the current one-ounce possession limit on cannabis flower. Other possession thresholds, such as a seven-gram limit on cannabis concentrates, would not change under the bill. Kloba said she couldn’t comment on those thresholds, as she wasn’t the original author of the bill.

Washington’s 2012 marijuana initiative originally omitted a homegrow provision because its authors believed that making consumers purchase products through storefronts that were taxed and regulated would make the measure more palatable to voters.

“As one of the first states to legalize cannabis, I understand that some tradeoffs were made to garner support for the initiative,” Kloba said. “Now that the industry has matured, and the public has experienced legalized cannabis in practice rather [than] just in theory, it seems as though prohibiting homegrow is an antiquated policy.”

Despite home cultivation having become a more-or-less standard component of legalization in most other states, Washington lawmakers have remained skeptical of the policy, which some worry could expand the state’s illicit cannabis market or diminish tax revenue from commercial sales.

Very little of the pushback seems to have come from licensed retail stores. At a House committee hearing in February, one of the state’s most outspoken cannabis retailers testified in favor of homegrow legislation.

“Many of us have hobby home vegetable gardens,” said Uncle Ike’s owner Ian Eisenberg said, “but it doesn’t affect what we purchase from the grocery stores.”

Lawmakers are set to take up the new legislation when the new legislative session begins in mid-January. Kloba said the homegrow bill “will almost certainly be referred to the Commerce and Gaming Committee,” which she chairs.

“I am confident it will receive a fair hearing and vote in committee,” she said. “However, with the Washington House of Representatives operating remotely this year, the amount of legislation that will be passed is much less than in previous years. The speaker has made it clear that COVID relief and police accountability will be our highest priorities and it is unclear where this bill will land.”

Kloba added that she’s pursuing other cannabis legislation this year “related to righting the wrongs of the drug war and protecting medical marijuana patients.” One bill would speed the vacating of past misdemeanor criminal convictions for marijuana offenses, which are currently eligible to be cleared but require individuals to file their own petitions in most cases. Another would remove a requirement that patients with a doctor’s recommendation for cannabis register with the state in order to receive protection under the state’s existing medical marijuana law.

Meanwhile, advocates of broader drug reform are hoping to find a sponsor for a bill to decriminalize the possession of all drugs in the state. The group Treatment First Washington said last month that its proposal would mirror Oregon’s recently passed Measure 110, which replaced criminal penalties for low-level drug possession in that state with a $100 fine or a requirement to complete a health assessment. Funding comes from existing tax revenue from legal marijuana sales.

Another Washington proposal, backed by Dr. Bronner’s CEO David Bronner, would go even further, combining the decriminalization provisions similar to Oregon’s law with another voter-approved initiative from that state, Measure 109, which legalized psilocybin mushrooms for therapeutic use.

That proposal would likely go before voters in 2022, though it’s not yet clear whether the two policies would be packaged in a single bill or ballot measure. “As much as we’d like to have a single piece of legislation in Washington,” Bronner told Marijuana Moment earlier this month, “we might have two separate ones again” as was the case in Oregon.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) confused some observers in 2018, while running to be president, when he told reporters, “I may not smoke it, but I do grow it legally and we’ve got the best weed in America.” A spokesperson later told Marijuana Moment that Inslee does not in fact grow cannabis but was instead “referring to how it is legal to grow and sell in the state of Washington.”

Despite most states with legal marijuana allowing home cultivation, elected officials in some states that have legalized more recently, such as Illinois and New Jersey, have declined to include homegrow provisions. After voters passed legalization in New Jersey last month, lawmakers have argued that homegrow would create logistical concerns and divert marijuana into the illicit market.

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Correction: A previous version of this story indicated that marijuana possession limits would increase under the new bill. While the legislation would allow home growers to keep as much cannabis as their legal plants produce, which in many cases would exceed the state’s current one-ounce limit on marijuana flower, it would not otherwise adjust personal possession limits.

New Jersey Lawmakers Send Marijuana And Psilocybin Bills To Governor

Photo courtesy of M a n u e l

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor. He has covered cannabis as a journalist since 2011, most recently as a senior news editor for Leafly.

Politics

Virginia Has Sealed 64,000 Marijuana Distribution Charges Since Legalization Took Effect This Summer

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“These aren’t just numbers and there are families attached.”

By Ned Oliver, Virginia Mercury

Virginia has sealed records documenting more than 64,000 misdemeanor marijuana distribution charges since the state legalized the drug in July.

The figure came out Thursday during a meeting of the legislature’s Cannabis Oversight Commission.

Officials said the records were scrubbed from the state’s criminal record database, which is used by employers like school boards, state agencies and local governments to screen employees.

The state had already sealed 333,000 records detailing charges of simple possession last year after the state reduced the offense to a civil infraction on par with a traffic offense, said Shawn G. Talmadge, the Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security.

Lawmakers directed the state to expand that effort when they voted to broadly legalize recreational use of marijuana earlier this year.

The legislature also agreed to a broader expungement reform that will automatically seal other misdemeanor charges, including underage possession of alcohol, use of a fake ID, petit larceny, trespassing and disorderly conduct. Talmadge said those charges will remain in the system until the state finishes updating the software it uses to track criminal records.

“As of right now, the process is proceeding,” he said.

Members of the oversight commission also heard from two advocates who urged them to move fast to address people currently imprisoned for marijuana offenses—a category of people the legalization legislation passed this year did not address.

Chelsea Higgs Wise, the leader of the advocacy group Marijuana Justice, and Gracie Burger, with the Last Prisoner Project, said Department of Corrections data suggests there are currently 10 people being held solely on serious marijuana charges.

They said it remains unknown how many more are being held because of marijuana related probation violations.

“These aren’t just numbers and there are families attached,” Burger said.

This story was first published by Virginia Mercury,

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DEA Proposes Dramatic Increase In Marijuana And Psychedelic Production In 2022, Calling For 6,300 Percent More MDMA Alone

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The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is proposing a dramatic increase in the legal production of marijuana and psychedelics like psilocybin, LSD, MDMA and DMT to be used in research next year.

In a notice scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Monday, the agency said there’s been a “significant increase in the use of schedule I hallucinogenic controlled substances for research and clinical trial purposes,” and it wants authorized manufacturers to meet that growing demand.

DEA had already massively upped its proposed 2021 quota for cannabis and psilocybin last month, but now it’s calling for significantly larger quantities of research-grade marijuana and a broader array of psychedelics to be manufactured in 2022.

It wants to double the amount of marijuana extracts, psilocybin and psilocyn, quadruple mescaline and quintuple DMT. What especially stands out in the notice is MDMA. The agency is proposing an enormous 6,300 percent boost in the production of that drug—from just 50 grams in 2021 to 3,200 grams in the coming year—as research into its therapeutic potential continues to expand.

LSD would see a 1,150 percent increase, up to 500 grams of the potent psychedelic.

Marijuana itself would get a 60 percent boost under DEA’s proposal, up to 3.2 million grams in 2022 from the 2 million grams last year.

Here’s a visualization of the proposed quota increase from 2021 to 2022 for marijuana and cannabis extracts:

For all other THC, psilocybin, psilocyn and MDMA:

And for other psychedelic substances like LSD, mescaline and DMT:

DEA said in the Federal Register notice that it has been receiving and approving additional applications to “grow, synthesize, extract, and manufacture dosage forms containing specific schedule I hallucinogenic substances for clinical trial purposes” to achieve these ambitious quotas.

“DEA supports regulated research with schedule I controlled substances, as evidenced by increases proposed for 2022 as compared with aggregate production quotas for these substances in 2021,” the agency said, adding that it working “diligently” to process and approve marijuana manufacturers applications in particular, as there’s currently only one farm at the University of Mississippi that’s permitted to cultivate the plant for research.

“Based on the increase in research and clinical trial applications, DEA has proposed increases in 3,4- Methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), 5-Methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine, Dimethyltryptamine, Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), Marihuana, Marihuana Extract, Mescaline, Psilocybin, Psilocyn, and All Other Tetrahydrocannabinols to support manufacturing activities related to the increased level of research and clinical trials with these schedule I controlled substances.”

Here are the exact numbers for the proposed 2021 and 2022 quotas:

Substance 2021
2022 proposed
Marijuana 2,000,000 3,200,000
Marijuana extract 500,000 1,000,000
All other tetrahydrocannabinol 1,000 2,000
Psilocybin 1,500 3,000
Psilocyn 1,000 2,000
MDMA 50 3,200
LSD 40 500
Mescaline 25 100
DMT 50 250
5-MeO-DMT 35 550
MDA 55 200

A 30-day public comment period will be open after the notice is formally published on Monday.

It’s difficult to overstate just how significant the proposed 2022 increases are, but it’s certainly true that scientific and public interest in marijuana and psychedelics has rapidly increased, with early clinical trials signaling that such substances show significant therapeutic potential.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora Volkow told Marijuana Moment in a recent interview that she was encouraged by DEA’s previous proposed increase in drug production quota. She also said that studies demonstrating the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics could be leading more people to experiment with substances like psilocybin.

Advocates and experts remain frustrated that these plants and fungi remain in the strictest federal drug category in the first place, especially considering the existing research that shows their medical value for certain conditions.

A federal appeals court in August dismissed a petition to require the DEA to reevaluate cannabis’s scheduling under the Controlled Substances Act. However, one judge did say in a concurring opinion that the agency may soon be forced to consider a policy change anyway based on a misinterpretation of the therapeutic value of marijuana.

Separately, the Washington State attorney general’s office and lawyers representing cancer patients recently urged a federal appeals panel to push for a DEA policy change to allow people in end-of-life care to access psilocybin under state and federal right-to-try laws.

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Image element courtesy of Kristie Gianopulos.

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Supreme Court Won’t Hear Case On Legalizing Safe Drug Consumption Sites, But Activists Are Undeterred

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The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has rejected a request to hear a case on the legality of establishing safe injection sites where people can use illicit drugs in a medically supervised environment.

The justices announced on Tuesday that they decided against taking up the case raised by the nonprofit Safehouse, despite the pleas of attorneys general from 10 states and D.C. who recently filed amici briefs urging the court’s involvement.

Representatives from 14 cities and counties, as well as the mayor of Philadelphia, which is at the center of the current case, also filed briefs in support of the case in recent days.

Safehouse was set to launch a safe consumption site in Philadelphia before being blocked by a legal challenge from the Trump administration. It filed a petition with the nation’s highest court in August to hear the case.

But while the Supreme Court declined to take action—and the Biden administration passed up its voluntary opportunity to weigh in at this stage, which may well have influenced the justices’ decision—activists say the battle will continue at a lower federal court level, where the administration will have to file briefs revealing its position on the issue.

“We were disappointed that the government chose not to respond to our petition,” Safehouse Vice President Ronda Goldfein told Filter. “They said, ‘We’re going to waive our right to respond,’ [and] the Supreme Court declined to review our case. Ordinarily that sounds like the end of the road—but in our case we are still pursuing our claims in a different venue.”

That venue will be the the federal district court in Philadelphia, where activists plan to submit multiple arguments related to religious freedom and interstate commerce protections. The Biden administration will be compelled to file a response in that court by November 5.

“If they don’t respond, they lose,” Goldfein said.

A coalition of 80 current and former prosecutors and law enforcement officials—including one who is President Joe Biden’s pick for U.S. attorney of Massachusetts—previously filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to take up Safehouse’s safe injection case.

Fair and Justice Prosecution, the group that coordinated the amicus brief, also organized a tour of Portugal for 20 top prosecutors in 2019 so they could learn about the successful implementation of the country’s drug decriminalization law.

If the Supreme Court were to have taken the case and rule in favor of Safehouse, it could have emboldened advocates and lawmakers across the country to pursue the harm reduction policy.

The governor of Rhode Island signed a bill in July to establish a safe consumption site pilot program where people could test and use currently illicit drugs in a medically supervised environment. It became the first state in the country to legalize the harm reduction centers. It’s not clear whether the Department of Justice will seek to intervene to prevent the opening of such facilities in that state.

Massachusetts lawmakers advanced similar legislation last year, but it was not ultimately enacted.

A similar harm reduction bill in California, sponsored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D), was approved in the state Senate in April, but further action has been delayed until 2022.

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