Both Washington and Oregon’s medical marijuana programs have undergone significant changes in the last few months as they phase-in legislation meant to harmonize their state-legal medical and recreational systems. Commentators – us included– have written extensively on the impact these changes will have on the cannabis industry as growers, processors, and dispensaries attempt to keep up with the substantially different regulations. As is to be expected, things have not gone off entirely without a hitch so far.
A group of key stakeholders in the cannabis movement that has received less attention are the many patients who cultivate their own supply of medicine. It is important these patients are accounted for as the cannabis industry grows and becomes increasingly driven by business.
This is the first post in what will become a quasi regular series looking at how the changing landscape of cannabis policy will impact the small-scale medical marijuana producers that started it all.
Why do people grow their own cannabis? In the days before medical and recreational cannabis legalization, it was oftentimes a practical necessity for patients to cultivate their own cannabis to ensure themselves a consistent supply of pot for either medicinal or recreational use. The range of options for acquiring cannabis has expanded, but many still prefer the ability to tightly control and oversee the quality of their own supply. Whatever an individual patient’s justification, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) suggests patients “weigh the factors of privacy, cost and convenience, and make the choice that’s best for them.”
So, you’ve decided to grow your own medical marijuana – how do you do it legally in Washington State and in Oregon?
Washington. Under the new rules that came online on July 1 in Washington, all medical marijuana patients are required to possess a medical authorization from their healthcare provider. Once a patient has obtained a medical authorization, they can decide either to register with the state’s medical marijuana database or not. If they choose to register, they are allowed to grow from six to fifteen plants, as recommended by their doctor. Authorized patients who choose not to register are allowed to grow up to four plants and possess up to six ounces of cannabis from these plants. Patients must grow their cannabis in their personal residence, out of public sight.
Oregon. Home growing is a little different in Oregon, but the new laws similarly retain an ability for medical marijuana patients to grow their own supply – just under new restrictions. The good news is that patients growing only for themselves in their residence do not have to apply for a producer license or implement seed-to-sale tracking, a big cost and administrative burden for other types of producers. The other good news is that, as the Oregon Health Administration (OHA) says in its own FAQ, enforcement efforts are focused on grow operations with twelve or more mature plants – three times the four plants afforded to an individual growing for their own consumption in Oregon without medical marijuana authorization, which still caps mature plants at six. It’s no guarantee of amnesty for those violating the rules, of course, but a welcome enforcement approach for home growers nervous about the heightened level of regulation.
Next up we’ll look up and down the west coast at California and Alaska to see what coming changes have in store for patients who seek to grow their own cannabis there.