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Should Washington residents be allowed to grow marijuana?

UPDATED: Sat., Sept. 30, 2017, 9:40 p.m.

Washington pot enthusiasts might dream of someday growing their own marijuana plants at home, but Mary Jane Smith, owner of MJ’s Pot Shop in Pullman, wouldn’t do it if she could.

“It’s not like a houseplant where you go buy water and life is good,” Smith said.

That is why Smith does not feel threatened by a bill introduced earlier this year in the Washington state Legislature that would allow residents to grow their own personal marijuana plants.

The bill would allow residents 21 and older to possess no more than six marijuana plants and up to 24 ounces of useable, harvested marijuana. No more than 12 plants or 48 ounces of harvested marijuana could be cultivated or possessed in a single home, regardless of how many adults 21 and older live there.

Smith, who opened up shop in Pullman in 2014, thinks Washington residents should have the right to grow at home, and she does not believe that right would detract from her own business, which offers regulated marijuana from suppliers across the state.

Currently, cultivation and possession of marijuana plants in Washington is a felony offense. There is an exception for authorized medical marijuana patients.

Between 2010 and 2011, the Pullman Police Department investigated a total of nine marijuana cultivation cases, according to statistics provided by the department.

From 2012 – the year recreational marijuana became legal in the Washington – to 2015, the department investigated zero cases of marijuana cultivation. Since then, the department has turned five cases over to the Quad Cities Drug Task Force, though it was unclear whether those cases were related to cultivation or delivery.

Pullman police Chief Gary Jenkins said he was not aware of the bill but his initial thoughts were that legalization of homegrown pot could increase the availability of marijuana to those who should not be in possession of it. But whether there would be a significant change from what the department currently sees is unclear, Jenkins said.

The department has seen instances in the past where marijuana was purchased from an unlicensed grower. The product included various chemicals and byproducts unbeknownst to the buyer. Still, Jenkins said looking at other states’ experiences could be worthwhile. Alaska and Colorado have already implemented similar cultivation laws.

“The state has done a good job with their rules and regulations as far as quality control on marijuana before it reaches the retail public,” Jenkins said.

Smith raised her own concerns with customers purchasing marijuana from the black market. Those who grow their own plants must pay attention that no harmful chemicals touch the plant in the process, she said.

“If you’re growing your own, I’m hoping you’re paying attention to detail,” Smith said.

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board will hold a public hearing on the issue at 10 a.m. Wednesday at its headquarters in Olympia. The board has also encouraged written public comment through Oct. 11. Comments can be emailed to rules@lcb.wa.gov or mailed to PO Box 43080, Olympia, WA 98504.

The board is seeking input on three options:

  • Tightly regulated home grows, limited to four plants, in which growers are required to have a permit and to enter their plants into a state traceability system.
  • Local control of home grows, limited to four plants, in which growers are not required to enter grows into a traceability system and which could be prohibited without local permission.
  • A prohibition on recreational home grows, preserving the status quo.

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