Home Grown: Thumbs Up or Down for Washington Growers?

Of all the states that allow recreational cannabis, Washington is the only one that prohibits growing cannabis indoors for residents. Now, there’s hope that may change. But what could that mean for you and your favorite local dispensary?

The right to grow your own marijuana has been enshrined in cannabis culture from its very earliest days. At its roots—no pun intended—cannabis is, of course, merely a plant. It's a completely natural product that requires minimal processing to be medically or recreationally viable.

Of course, there’s a catch: for decades, growing cannabis indoors wasn’t a right, but a serious crime under federal law.

Now it seems that’s all up in the air…or is it?

While federal decriminalization seems only a matter of time, it’s impossible to predict when that will happen. And that uncertainty has much to do with why Washington finds itself the only cannabis-legal state that prohibits its citizens from growing cannabis indoors. How’d we come to this state of affairs, and—more importantly—is there hope this will change anytime soon?

The Cole Memo: A Shaky Foundation for a Legal-Weed America

In considering whether or not to decriminalize at all, most states refer to the Cole Memo. This 2013 memo outlined a cautious, legally nuanced approach for states to determine their destiny when it comes to cannabis.

Though in hindsight, the Obama-era Department of Justice looks like an opium den compared with the current iteration under Jeff Sessions, the Cole Memo was really just a tentative first step in the legalization process. As we’re seeing under the current administration, it offers states no real protection against a federal crackdown, which Sessions has promised more than once.

So when it came time to debate decriminalization, Washington State went over and above the memo. It became the only legal-weed state to prohibit private citizens from growing cannabis indoors. (The more recent SB 5131 made an exception for medical marijuana patients to grow a limited amount for personal use.)

While that’s a major frustration for budding home growers, there is still hope. Namely, in the form of a State-mandated recommendation by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB), which hit lawmakers’ desks late in 2017.

The LCB Report: A No-Go on Growing Cannabis Indoors

Sadly, any short-term hope those itching to grow cannabis indoors may have felt evaporated with the Dec. 1 report. While it didn’t recommend continuing the ban on home growing, maintaining the status quo emerged as one of two strong options. The other being a strict framework of state regulation including permitting and the same rigorous traceability provisions commercial operations such as Clear Choice are required to use. (A middle-ground LCB recommendation providing looser oversight appears to be a rather distant third choice.)

Of course, the final say lies with state lawmakers, who begin the 2018 legislative session in early January. However, the Cole Memo's tone and the Attorney General’s stance on cannabis indicate the ban will likely remain in effect.

As always, we'll keep our ears to the ground to continue reporting on the cannabis issues you care about most. In the meantime, we urge you to contact your representatives directly and let them know your concerns regarding this important issue. While we’re proud to supply you with the best cannabis around, we support your right to determine where and how you get cannabis.

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State Of The Leaf: 2016 Washington State Cannabis Year In Review

2016 was an historic year for cannabis, not just in Washington, but across the country. The industry made news with state ballot initiatives making a winning sweep in eight out of ten states. The victories were tempered, of course, with the surprise election of Donald Trump. So what were some of the biggest stories of 2016 affecting Washington State?

Cannabis Wins Big in 2016 Election (Maybe)

Nine states had cannabis initiatives on the ballot in 2016. Five of those -- California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and Arizona -- voted on legalizing adult-use cannabis. All but one (Arizona) join Washington State (and Colorado, Oregon and Alaska) with legal adult-use cannabis. Likewise, Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota passed medical marijuana measures. Notably, Montana voters brought its industry back from the dead by approving commercial cultivation and dispensaries.

After 2016’s election, 20% of Americans live in states where adult-use cannabis is legal, while 60% live in states where medical marijuana is legal. The success of the ballot measures (should) bode well for Washington State as it signals a tipping point in the industry.

Trump’s Upset Victory Puts The Industry on Edge

While the victory of state elections was a watershed moment for the industry, the exuberance was tempered by the surprise victory of Donald Trump. Trump’s campaign rhetoric (with respect to cannabis) was favorable to the industry, however, his pick for Attorney General (anti-cannabis crusader Sen. Jeff Sessions) sent shockwaves thru the industry. Sessions famously quipped, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” The industry is justifiably concerned that Sessions could dismiss Obama’s Justice Department memos that permit state-legal programs to continue without interference from the feds.

Trump’s own statements, however, have been in support of medical marijuana and allowing states to chart their own course for adult-use. What did Trump say on the campaign trail? Trump stated emphatically that he supports medical marijuana and expressed lukewarm support for allowing the states to chart their own course on adult-use. He told the Washington Post: “Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should happen — right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.” Previously, on C-SPAN, Trump said, “If they vote for it, they vote for it…But I think, medical marijuana, 100%.”

While Trump has sent mixed messages between his rhetoric and his pick for attorney general, no doubt, 2017 should be an interesting year to see how his administration’s formal policy plays out.

Washington State Consolidated Recreational and Adult-Use Markets

On July 1, Washington formalized consolidation of recreational and clinical cannabis markets. Both industries now fall under the same regulatory bodies, and there is little distinction between the two markets. The move was aimed to better regulate the clinical cannabis market, which had little regulation in place.

While more regulation was arguably needed for clinical cannabis, many patients (and advocates) have been concerned that merging the two industries won’t bode well for medical. However, the jury is still out. And, Governor Inslee has stated publicly that the State remains committed to evolving clinical cannabis in a manner that’s favorable to patients. Nonetheless, the clinical side of the industry has struggled since the changes took effect.

Washington’s Neighbor to the North -- Canada -- Positions Itself to Legalize Nationwide

Canada is moving forward to implementing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s commitment to fully legalizing cannabis this year. The prime minister’s appointed task force put forth 80 recommendations on how the country can move forward on legalization.

Estimates put Canada’s adult-use cannabis market at 3.8 million consumers with gross revenue at US$4.5B ($6B Canadian dollars) by 2021. A more aggressive estimate puts the figure at $22.6B.

The DEA Denied a Petition to Reschedule Cannabis (Again)

Last April, to the delight of many Americans, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced it would reconsider rescheduling cannabis off of Schedule I (which is traditionally reserved for what they consider the most “dangerous” -- drugs like Heroin and LSD -- that have “no accepted medical use”). Hopes were dashed, however, when the DEA announced there would be no change.

Likewise, the DEA raised concerns when they announced isolated compounds (like CBD) would have their own code, but would continue (for now) to be Schedule I drugs. However, others have argued that by segregating compounds, it will be easier to at least reschedule CBD.

In a move welcomed by the scientific community, the DEA announced it would end the Fed's monopoly on the production of research grade cannabis by opening up production (for research purposes) to more entities (like universities).

Redmond Corporate Giant, Microsoft, Enters the Cannabis Industry

Native sun and Redmond-based software behemoth, Microsoft, announced it would be entering the cannabis sector. True, mainstream companies have been quietly operating in the industry for years, this was the first company of Microsoft’s stature to publicly acknowledge their interest in entering the industry in a big way. While not a Washington-based company, Fortune 500 company Scotts Miracle-Gro also elevated its visibility in the industry. The company announced its intention to invest $500 million in the sector, while making some notable acquisitions.

While the entry of “big business” to the industry will certainly continue to destigmatize cannabis, many are concerned that smaller companies and entrepreneurs could get pushed out (or at least the industry will experience a major culture shift).

Clearly, 2016 was an interesting year. But, 2017 will prove to be even more interesting! It will either be great (or perilous). Let's hope President Trump's vision for "making America great again" includes keeping cannabis great!


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