A renewed effort in Washington State to allow adults to grow marijuana at home had its first hearing in Olympia last week, with a House committee considering a bill that would permit individuals to cultivate up to six cannabis plants for personal use.
A committee vote on the proposal could come as soon as this Friday.
Though Washington was among the first states in the nation to legalize commercial marijuana, growing the plant at home for recreational use remains a felony. Lawmakers have repeatedly rejected past personal cultivation proposals in the years since voters approved a 2012 legalization initiative, citing obstacles to enforcement and a worry that homegrown cannabis would be sold on the illicit market.
If last Friday’s hearing is any indication, however, this year could be different. Public testimony on the new homegrow bill, HB 1019, was relatively low-key, and most questions from lawmakers focused on minor details, such as how homegrow would compare to home beer brewing and whether landlords should be able to prohibit plants in rental units.
“I was surprised by the reasonableness of it,” said John Kingsbury, co-founder of advocacy group Homegrow Washington, told Marijuana Moment in an email after the hearing. “It isn’t always this way. In fact, it has never been this smooth before.”
The bill, HB 1019, is currently in the House Commerce and Gaming Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Shelley Kloba (D), who is also the lead sponsor of the homegrow proposal. During an executive session later this week, lawmakers could vote to advance the legislation.
“This is a bill we’ve seen a few times before in this committee,” Kloba said at the recent public hearing, noting that momentum for the policy shift has only grown as homegrow has become “a fairly standard part” of marijuana legalization in other states. “Prohibiting homegrow is an antiquated policy, and it is time for us to evolve in this space.”
That point was echoed by homegrow advocates, who noted that nearly every other U.S. state that has legalized marijuana for adults allows home cultivation. Washington, by contrast, allows only registered medical marijuana patients to grow their own cannabis.
“This bill is well in line with the trend from other states, underscoring that we are not in front of this issue but rather coming into harmony with other legal states,” testified Lara Kaminsky, government affairs liaison for The Cannabis Alliance, an industry advocacy group.
The only other state with legal cannabis sales that forbids home cultivation is Illinois, where the offense is treated as a civil infraction rather than a felony. New Jersey, which legalized marijuana in November’s election but has yet to launch legal sales, will also outlaw homegrow under implementation legislation on the desk of Gov. Phil Murphy (D).
Washington activists initially excluded homegrow from their 2012 initiative over worry that the policy might not be embraced by voters. Until that point, no other state had yet legalized marijuana for adult use.
Policymakers have also expressed concerns that letting people grow their own marijuana at home could reduce state tax revenue from commercial cannabis sales or divert homegrown product into the illegal market. But successful homegrow policies in other states, advocates said, have shown those fears to be overblown.
“What’s being proposed here would not be a bold new experiment, but rather a well-worn path,” Kingsbury said. “Crime hasn’t exploded in states that allow home growing, and tax revenues have not suffered.”
Under the new legislation, home growers could be charged with a civil infraction if odors from their plants cause a public nuisance or if plants can be seen from public property. Those provisions, which weren’t included in past Washington homegrow bills, are meant to provide recourse for neighbors and prevent plants from being stolen.
Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 250 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.
Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.
Stanley Garnett, a former Colorado district attorney who now works at cannabis-focused law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, called HB 1019 a “prudent and thoughtful” bill.
“I think the possibility of spinoff problems from a law enforcement perspective are very very limited,” the former prosecutor testified.
But some in Washington law enforcement are still skeptical. James McMahan, policy director for the Washington Association of Police Chiefs and Sheriffs, said the group’s members are concerned the homegrow law would be difficult to enforce and could expose children to marijuana. He said the proposal “is inconsistent and contrary to the reasons why we understand the voters enacted Initiative 502,” the state’s legalization law.
“We want to caution you all on what your expectations are of our ability to do this,” McMahan told lawmakers about enforcement of the proposal. “Many of the restrictions and limitations in this bill are things that would only be known if our officers were inside the home.”
For example, police wouldn’t know whether residents were growing more than the allowed limit unless they obtained a warrant to enter and search the property, McMahan said, “which we think is going to be fairly rare.”
Advocates pointed out that it’s already standard practice in law enforcement to seek a warrant if police have reasonable suspicion to believe a person is breaking the law. “This is the system we have for other concerns with illegal activity,” Kingsbury said, “and that system appears to be working well.”
State Rep. Melanie Morgan (D) also pushed back against McMahan’s claim that HB 1019 would expose more children to marijuana. “We allow drinking in the home. We allow smoking in the home. We allow home brewing in the home, among other things,” she said. “I get it that you have your safety concerns, because that’s your job, but I would rather—instead of me saying that it’s no good—that we collaborate together.”
Morgan also took issue with a provision in the current bill that would allow landlords to prohibit tenants from growing marijuana in rental properties. “We’re rolling this out,” she said, “but it’s starting to be inequitable in that not everybody will have the ability to participate.”
Meanwhile, drug reformers are watching closely for the expected introduction of a measure that would decriminalize possession of all drugs. It’s expected that measure could be unveiled as soon as this week.
Virginia Has Sealed 64,000 Marijuana Distribution Charges Since Legalization Took Effect This Summer
“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.
The Virginia Joint Commission on Cannabis Oversight is meeting now. You can find the agenda and links to livestream and to provide public comment at https://t.co/f1wsPn7SV7
— Jennifer McClellan (@JennMcClellanVA) October 14, 2021
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.
DEA Proposes Dramatic Increase In Marijuana And Psychedelic Production In 2022, Calling For 6,300 Percent More MDMA Alone
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:
|All other tetrahydrocannabinol||1,000||2,000|
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.
Image element courtesy of Kristie Gianopulos.
Supreme Court Won’t Hear Case On Legalizing Safe Drug Consumption Sites, But Activists Are Undeterred
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.
Disappointed but not surprised U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear our case. We’re pursuing our claims in federal court. As that litigation proceeds, Biden administration will have to take a position, which it avoided by waiving its right to respond to our Supreme Court petition.
— Safehouse (@SafehousePhilly) October 13, 2021
“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.