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STEVE ELLIOTT

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A home grow bill has been introduced in the Washington Legislature that would finally allow adults to grow their own marijuana. But wait a minute, those in other areas of the country may be thinking. Didn’t you guys already legalize weed several years ago? Well, sorta. But it’s still a felony to grow, because our “legalization” law sucks.

Yep, Washington is the only state in the Union that allows retail marijuana sales, but doesn’t permit it to be grown at home for recreational use. (Medical marijuana patients, for now, are still grudgingly allowed to grow 4 plants, but that number used to be 15 plants before recreational legalization.)

The new home grow bill, HB 1092, was introduced on Wednesday by Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo), who has for awhile now been a good friend to the cannabis community. If enacted, adults 21 and older would be legally able to grow up to six plants on private premises, with an allowed yield up to 24 ounces. (I know, I know! That’s only 4 ounces per plant, not a yield of which a Josh Haupt-level grower could be proud.)

The bill would limit home grows to a maximum of up to 48 ounces of legal harvest per residence, even if more than two adults live in the home, reports Johnny Green at Weed News.

“NORML believes that criminalizing the personal cultivation of cannabis is an arbitrary prohibition that has absolutely no basis in public safety,” the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws announced in a public statement.

Yes, it’s been a long, hard haul for Washington state residents who want to be able to grow their own cannabis.

That doesn’t seem such an unreasonable request, in a state where marijuana has ostensibly been legal since 2012. But now it’s 2017, and you can still catch a quick felony for trying to provide your own recreational supply, rather than patronizing the retail establishments allowed by I-502.

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Daniel Shortt, Harris Bricken:
“Washington has been fairly unique, in that it doesn’t allow for recreational home grow”
[LinkedIn]

“Washington has been fairly unique, in that it doesn’t allow for recreational home grow; even Colorado, who legalized before Washington, allows for it,” attorney Daniel Shortt told Zosha Millman at the Seattle PI. “So in some ways it makes sense that we’re seeing this kind of legislation.”

How the hell did this happen?

Why is Washington the only green state where it’s illegal to grow weed?

Two factors are at work here. One is the timidity of ACLU lawyer Alison Holcomb of New Approach Washington, the group behind the successful 2012 campaign to legalize recreational weed in the state. This was achieved at the expense of safe access for patients through their own system of patient collectives, for the record.

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Alison Holcomb:
I-502, the Washington legalization law she wrote in 2012, was far too timid
[Daniel Berman / Seattle Weekly]

Anyway, Holcomb felt that the “soccer moms” she was targeting with mild-mannered I-502 might not vote for a legalization measure in sufficient numbers, if it contained a provision allowing home cultivation. That, of course, was wildly wrong, as amply shown the same year in Colorado. The Rocky Mountain state, like Washington, passed a legalization law in 2012. But theirs, Amendment 64, is much better, and allows home cultivation. Soccer moms voted for it, too. Holcomb was just too timid in Washington.

The second factor in Washington’s continuing prohibition of marijuana cultivation is pressure from “the industry,” that is, the lucky group of retailers who got licenses (which are limited to 334) for storefronts under the new regime. It seems these fellows have discovered the power of lobbying, and especially of campaign contributions.

It would be difficult to explain in any other convincing way just how they’ve gotten such favorable legislation, “helpfully” (well, to I-502 merchants, anyway) extinguishing the medical marijuana alternative for patients last July 1 via SB 5052. That’s the day the remaining medical marijuana dispensaries, which hadn’t been able to get recreational licenses, were forced to shut down.

They Really Know How To Lobby

Something called the Washington Cannabusiness Association (WACA) actively lobbied behind the scenes against passage of a bill which would have allowed home cultivation. This, by the way, was even while they publicly claimed to be “neutral” on the issue, because they knew they’d piss a bunch of people off.

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Vicki Christopherson, WACA:
“worked closely with Senator Rivers”
[Cannabis Chronicles]

But word got out, and WACA, as a result, became an unpopular organization among many in the cannabis community, after that, with its name used as insult. It has subsequently been more or less supplanted by a similar organization known as the Cannabis Organization of Retail Establishments (CORE) as the most influential lobbying entity for marijuana retailers.

Last year, WACA director Vicki Christopherson told the Daily Beast that the organization “worked closely with Senator [Ann] Rivers” in crafting SB 5052, the coup de grace which has ended medical marijuana as we’ve known it in Washington state. Christopherson said Rivers “took a lot of our suggestions,” reports Brendan Kiley at The Stranger.

WACA definitely had the ear of DOPE Magazine’s publishing team, including publisher David Tran and stones-challenged editor Evan Carter.

dave tran dope magazine
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Dave Tran, DOPE Magazine:
Publishes thinly veiled ad copy as “editorial content”
[Cannabis Radio]

This became an inescapable fact of my life when, in early 2016, I made a Facebook post calling for a boycott of WACA members because of their opposition to homegrow. Next thing I knew, DOPE sacked me for making their advertisers uncomfortable.

“Recently, we as a company have received multiple complaints about strong opinions you have expressed,” DOPE publisher Evan Carter emailed me. “We enjoyed your features and the non-political content you provide, however, until we can get on the same page, it is in DOPE‘s best intertest to take a break for now, until things cool down and we can come to an amicable solution.” Here’s a hint, Evan: When it comes to safe access for patients, there is no “amicable solution” short of safe access for patients.

“Defending Our Patients Everywhere,” the magazine’s original slogan, has become a sad parody; it’s no wonder the rag has now quietly changed it to “Defending Our Plant Everywhere,” but they’re not even doing that much, if they’re unwilling to re-establish the “wall between editorial and advertising,”  by standing up to the 502 profiteers (who are, not coincidentally, their biggest advertisers) and to defend home grow.

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February 2016 email from DOPE Editor Evan Carter. This wasn’t for anything in a DOPE article; they just didn’t like my Facebook posts.

Sad to say, DOPE‘s editorial material at this point is uniformly pretty weak, reading like nothing in the world so much as warmed over ad copy. That doesn’t at all surprise me, though.

Early on in my tenure there, they were chicken to publish a roundup of Seattle dispensaries close to Hempfest, because I had dared to write actual reviews of the places. That means I was mildly critical of some things about some of them, so DOPE shit-canned the entire article in typically spineless fashion.

Chris Hurst’s Sham Home Grow Hearing of 2016

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Steve Elliott testifies in 2016 for the Home Grow bill

This isn’t the first attempt to allow Washingtonians to grow their own weed. Last year, Rep. Christopher Hurst‘s Commerce and Gaming Committee of the Washington House held a public hearing on HB 2629, the Home Grow bill, sponsored by Reps. Brian Blake, Cary Condotta, and Jessyn Farrell.

Many of the activists in attendance were surprised — OK, shocked — when committee chair Hurst, a former narcotics cop, was polite, even solicitous and seemingly caring, with the patients and others who showed up to testify.

After all, this Hurst guy is the one who, in 2013, helpfully informed us that 99 percent of medical marijuana patients are “faking it.” In fact, from some of the rhetoric emanating from Hurst and from fellow Democrat, Gov. Jay Inslee, in 2013, you’d think that the entire medical-marijuana thing was a black-market enterprise. In 2015, Hurst recommended that law enforcement be allowed to auction off medical marijuana they’d stolen — I mean “seized” — from medical marijuana dispensaries.

Hurst said, just last year, that he considers most of the state’s medical providers part of the black market. “So-called medical today, for the most part is a joke,” he said. “We’re going to change all that.” And Hurst did just that, managing to snag a couple of campaign contributions from I-502 merchants in the process.

Hurst killed last year’s bill by not even allowing his fellow committee members to vote on it.

“It takes campaign contributions during the previous election cycle if you want a bill passed through committee heads,” patient activist John Novak told Toke Signals at the time.

Incidentally, Hurst did receive $950 from the aforementioned CORE.

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