WA House APP – Committee Meeting
(February 5, 2020)

Here are some observations from the Wednesday February 5th Washington State House Appropriations Committee (WA House APP) committee meeting.

My top 4 takeaways:

  • The House Appropriations Committee hosted a public hearing for HB 1131 – “Allowing residential marijuana agriculture,” thus far the farthest home grow legislation has ever advanced in Washington’s legislature.
    • HB 1131 was introduced in 2019 by Representative Brian Blake, who had sponsored other home grow bills in earlier sessions. Those bills were regularly advanced by the House Commerce and Gaming Committee (WA House COG) with bipartisan support, only to be assigned to and ignored by the House Finance Committee. This session, the home grow bill was assigned to the House Appropriations Committee (WA House APP), whose membership “considers the operating budget bill and related legislation, budget processes, and fiscal issues such as pension policy and compensation.”
    • The first of 10 bills listed for public hearing, Committee Chair Timm Ormsby moved HB 1131 to the end as it required less committee staff efforts compared to the other bills being heard. “This is a very busy week in the legislature with cutoff dates. Staff is extremely busy, both with policy and fiscal matters, and their workload is heavy and in the interest of letting them get back to that work we’re going to be going down the list.” HB 1131 was “last because that means more of our staff are going to be able to get back to the important work that they’re required to do.” Ormsby said the bill’s placement had been “misleading in the public hearing agenda list” and apologized for the inconvenience (audio – 1m, video).
    • Staff Report
    • Representative Joe Schmick had staff clarify that the bill pertained to recreational cultivation and not medical (audio – <1m, video)
  • The vast majority of those who signed in and spoke did so in favor of the legislation.
    • Pro (63)
    • Michael Diamond, ScottsMiracle-Gro West Region Government Relations Manager (audio – 2m, video)
      • Hawthorne Gardening Company
      • Diamond represented companies whose products were “staples of indoor growing” and served “retail and individuals” statewide in addition to employing hundreds. He supported HB 1131 as “permitting home cultivation in the state will open a small but relatively significant and impactful opportunity for a lot of the small business customers that we have across the state.” Diamond speculated that the “regulated US cannabis industry” would see “upwards of $23 billion in annual sales” by “2022 or 2023.” He conveyed ScottsMiracle-Gro’s view that “home cultivation will in fact be a component of that growth” and was hopeful the legislature would permit “smaller businesses in this case to participate in that commerce.” Diamond said the bill’s “fiscal analysis is an interesting question” but didn’t appear significant and could be “a net savings and little or no regulation or rulemaking required.” His last observation was personal cultivation’s safety component as “it may discourage black or gray market activity by providing access to many who do not have access to legal dispensaries or retail outlets.”
    • Gibron Sharpe, (audio – 1m, video)
    • Nik Grobins, Hefty Harvest (audio – 1m, video)
    • John Kingsbury, Homegrow Washington (audio – 2m, video)
      • Kingsbury began his remarks observing that “many people are afraid of what will happen” if the bill became law “but the truth is that we know what will happen because nine other states and Washington D.C. already allow it.” He then expressed confidence the bill would “not result in significant revenue decreases” nor “increase access for children because although 502 has greatly increased access for children, underage use is down in all but one grade level.” Thinking critically, Kingsbury suggested “we know that most people will not choose to do it because it is readily available in the stores.” Kingsbury said “we also know that the campaign for initiative 502 was 80% about stopping the generational damage of marijuana prohibition and 20% about tax revenues and it would be a great shame if we gave up on that higher ideal.” He wrapped up saying the committee should pass the bill as it was “past time to treat me and others like adults.”
    • Betty Frizzell, Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP, audio – 3m, video)
      • Frizzell identified as a “former law enforcement officer and chief of police” and urged lawmakers to support the measure for adults to grow “a very small number of marijuana plants in the privacy and safety of their own home.” She argued the bill’s framework “was very well laid out and it simply brings Washington state in line with the other legalized states in the country.” She said there was “little evidence to show” HB 1131’s plant limits “would lead to additional law enforcement activity or any impact on state revenue collection.” Frizzell pointed to a June 2018 report by the University of Washington (UW)’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute (ADAI) in which cannabis arrest data showed “marijuana cultivation-related incidents…were significantly insignificant numbers, decreased even further between 2012 and 2015 from 120 to 47.” That data also showed “fewer law enforcement agencies were actively pursuing these events.” While unsure how many of these cases were home grows, Frizzell believed “that number would drop significantly” if the state wasn’t concerned with six-plant homegrows. Further, the fiscal note of the bill “suggests that the reduction of arrest, prosecutions, and incarcerations” would result in “a net savings for the state and the taxpayers.” Frizzell ended by pointing to an “unspoken truth: our law enforcement agencies are…understaffed, under resourced, and overworked.”
    • Danica Noble, NORML Women of Washington Director (audio – 2m, video)
      • Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) Antitrust, Consumer Protection, and Unfair Business Practices Section Chair and Cannabis Law Section Co-Founder
      • Noble said she was supporting the bill “for democracy, that idea that we the people can take a failed notion and perfect this union.” Washington “took some steps forward in 2012 but we did not go all the way and the stakes are still very high.” A troubling indicator for Noble was the disparity between Caucasian and African American arrest rates for cannabis which she said had gotten worse according to Washington state’s ACLU. Pointing to Pew Research polling which found two-thirds of the public support cannabis legalization, she argued that a vote against home grow was “against—certainly the people in your constituencies here in Washington—but also you’re kind of on the wrong side of history.” Noble added that continued prohibitions against cannabis weighed “on the shoulders of communities of color and economically disadvantaged people.”
    • Ian Eisenberg, Craft Cannabis Coalition (CCC) Founding Member (audio – 1m, video)
      • Uncle Ike’s Co-Owner
      • Representing Ike’s as “a small chain of retail cannabis stores,” Eisenberg was “a strong proponent of this bill. I can’t think of any reason not to allow home grow in Washington state.” He said the legislation to “allow six plants for personal use is reasonable and the bill represents good public policy.” As a retailer, Eisenberg wasn’t threatened by the concept since cannabis was “easy and cheap” to obtain at stores and “the number of people that will actually grow is negligible.” He compared the prevalence of “hobby home vegetable gardens but it doesn’t affect what we purchase from the grocery stores.” Eisenberg said he expected “home grown cannabis will likely cost way more than that which is bought in our store.” He described materials “and all the time involved” in producing quality plants and reiterated that “it’s a hobby.” Tax loss to the state hadn’t been evident in other legal cannabis states, leaving Eisenberg confident it wouldn’t impact revenue. In closing, he called HB 1131 “a very important step that Washington should take.”
    • Caitlein Ryan, The Cannabis Alliance President (audio – 2m, video)
      • Seven Hills Owner 
      • Ryan said “in keeping with the mission of the Cannabis Alliance, home agriculture is an important part of a robust, diverse marketplace.” Comparing the practice to home brewing where “equipment for home brewing alone represents over a billion dollars in annual revenue,” she projected ancillary businesses selling garden supplies or lighting benefiting from HB 1131’s passage. Ryan said producers like herself might benefit commercially “by providing clones, education, and additional supplies.” Beyond “quantifiable benefits there are also multiple soft benefits” including more “sophisticated consumers” willing to spend more for “higher quality retail product that fits their parameters.” Ryan concluded that home grow would help “a small group but it is a key aspect of a robust, vital, ethical, and sustainable cannabis industry.”
    • Daniela Bernhard, Uncle Ike’s Co-Owner (audio – 1m, video)
    • Micah Sherman, Raven Owner (audio – 2m, video)
    • Don Skakie, Homegrow Washington (audio – 2m, video)
      • Skakie informed lawmakers that his organization was comprised of “private citizens that want to have the same considerations” as adults in other legal cannabis states. He advocated for “drawing a line” between clearly criminal operations and “law abiding citizens that just want a good law to follow.” The parameters of the bill would be good for both the public and law enforcement, Skakie said, because the proposal maintained strong penalties for those growing, trafficking, or storing cannabis in large amounts. He asked the committee to differentiate between the size and smell of commercial cannabis sites and six plants “in there with my rose bushes and everything else.” As a parent and landlord, Skakie suggested it was “disingenuous to think that if we allow home growing that responsible parents are suddenly going to make marijuana available to anyone, particularly children.” He thanked the committee after asking for their vote to advance HB 1131.
    • Bob Costello (audio – 2m, video)
    • Mark Ambler, Tier 1 Producer Association (T1PA, audio – 2m, video)
      • Breeze Trees Owner
    • Kyle Capizzi, CCC Executive Director (audio – 2m, video)
    • Ah Warner, NORML Women of Washington (audio – 3m, video)
    • Bailey Hirschburg, Washington NORML (written testimony, audio – 2m, video)
      • WSLCB Cannabis Advisory Council (CAC) Consumer Representative
      • Hirschburg thanked lawmakers for their time, adding he was “sincerely concerned that, given the runtime of this meeting, it’s cost has now eclipsed the cost of implementing this bill.” He then ran through a series of points about personal cultivation.
      • “This is formalizing an informal practice of law enforcement, no one has argued that cops are running around looking for one, or two, or three plants.” Instead, law enforcement should “focus on large, criminally connected grows” and those with “clear dangers” for children or “an obvious nuisance to the public.”
      • Hirschburg said that during the prior year there’d been “a lot of talk around the cannabis industry of ‘compliance over enforcement,’ the notion that” regulators should “guide them towards complying rather than focus on punitive actions. I don’t see why that would be good for the cannabis industry and not good for the citizens of your districts. We should be passing this law to focus on compliance over enforcement” given that six plants for adults was currently “a felony offense.”
      • Hirschburg called personal cultivation a “constitutionally sound” policy which “fits within I-502.” Saying he’d organized volunteers on the 2012 initiative, Hirschburg shared comments from I-502’s author Alison Holcomb showing HB 1131 was in the spirit of the original campaign. “Despite what you’ve heard about this going against the intent of I-502, that tended to come from groups who were opposed to I-502 and continue to be opposed to cannabis.”
      • Hirschburg was critical of the concept that the state be expected to give cannabis “a perception of harm. We don’t owe it to kids to have them terrified of this plant. Parents need to manage cactuses, kitchen knives, bleach, in their homes every day.” Expecting those adults to be any less equipped to manage a cannabis plant was “really nonsensical” in Hirschburg’s estimation. He asked lawmakers to pass the bill on its “minimal cost but huge potential for individual freedoms – and for some small grow stores.”
    • Arthur West (audio – 2m, video)
      • West liked the bill’s “bright line on what’s required for someone’s house to be seized” as he opposed property seizure based “upon a vague definition of ‘commercial activity’ and a small amount of plants.” He pointed out the long history of citizens engaging the legislature on the topic, adding “we’re not going anywhere.” West said he had worked with organizations that opposed I-502 “specifically because we thought it was counterrevolutionary” and would “provide forces that would resist the further legalization of this.” He commended Hirschburg as a supporter of the I-502 campaign for “now speaking to reasonably allow people to grow small amounts of marijuana” at home. West agreed with others remarks about the difficulty of growing usable cannabis as it was “time consuming” and unlikely to challenge the retail market as “Safeway sells tomatoes which are immensely easy to grow.” As minor edits, West asked that the phrase “in compliance” in section 2 of the bill be changed to “substantially in compliance,” and that HB 1131’s “definition of commercial activity ought to be more definite and include some form of large-scale profiteering rather than just barter.”
    • Mark Jones (audio – 2m, video)
    • Erik Johansen (audio – 2m, video)
      • Johansen thanked the committee and said he was a citizen from Tumwater in addition to being “a husband, father, grandfather, veteran, college graduate, retiree from state service – but I can’t grow a few plants of cannabis at home…really?” He doubted home growing was a “threat to the commercial industry” or his grandchildren. Johansen appreciated the committee’s time hearing “diverse viewpoints” and urged them to review the legislation to “pass it out of committee, to get it to the floor, and to get this behind us.”
    • Ashley Heddy (signed in)
    • Nightmare Alabama (signed in)
    • Jared Allaway (signed in)
    • Kristin Baldwin, The Cannabis Alliance Executive Director (signed in)
    • Robert Blum (signed in)
    • Douglas Carney (signed in)
    • Josh Clegg (signed in)
    • Jessica Coombs (signed in)
    • Dominic Corva, Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy (CASP) Founder (signed in)
    • Matt Crosen (signed in)
    • Jake Dimmock (signed in)
    • Renae Ely (signed in)
    • Selena Eon (signed in)
    • Michael Garrison (signed in)
    • Eric Gonzalez Alfaro, American Civil Liberties Union of Washington Legislative Director (signed in)
    • Steve Hadley (signed in)
    • Toni Ann Hasket-Mills (signed in)
    • Denise Harrington (signed in)
    • Thomas Hergett (signed in)
    • Miguel Holland (signed in)
    • Daisie Kallop (signed in)
    • Josh Kincaid (signed in)
    • Jason Lammers (signed in)
    • Tom Lauerman (signed in)
    • Rodney Lewis (signed in)
    • Jim MacRae, Straight Line Analytics Founder (signed in)
    • Terry Maddrin (signed in)
    • Dowl Mason (signed in)
    • Vivian McPeak, Seattle HEMPFEST CEO (signed in)
    • John Parr (signed in)
    • Noah Pride (signed in)
    • Jan Ramsey (signed in)
    • Diane Rand (signed in)
    • David Rand (signed in)
    • Lennee Reid (signed in)
    • Danielle Rosellison, Trail Blazin’ Productions Co-Owner and Operating Manager (signed in)
    • Cheryl Schnieder (signed in)
    • Brian Smith (signed in)
    • Karie Taylor (signed in)
    • David Vieberg (signed in)
    • Ashley Villafranca (signed in)
    • Caleb Weldon (signed in)
    • Michael Wilson (signed in)
    • Sean Woollett, Twenty22Many (signed in)
  • Minimal dissent against the measure came from historically familiar sources.
    • Con (4)
    • James McMahan, Washington’s Association of Sheriff’s and Police Chiefs Policy Director (WASPC, audio – 2m, video)
      • Joking that he was “here to again be the most popular person in the room,” McMahan set out WASPC’s four central objections:
        • McMahan reported that WASPC couldn’t believe that “having marijuana plants, up to 15 in each household” wouldn’t lead to access by minors.
        • A “propensity” for “burglaries and home invasion robberies” had been a trend McMahan said was seen in the state. “Simply put, those who are up to nefarious things will take advantage of high value items” like legal cannabis gardens and “we would hate to see folks get hurt because of this.”
        • Another issue for McMahan was presuming a “propensity for assisting the continuing black market for marijuana.” He said adult growers who didn’t “consume the entirety of their product there is a likelihood that they may offer those to sale for others and that’s certainly something that we don’t want.”
        • McMahan said that WASPC, which officially opposed I-502 in 2012, viewed HB 1131 as “inconsistent” with the intent of voters.
    • Seth Dawson, Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention (WASAVP) Lobbyist (audio – 3m, video)
      • Dawson said that passing the bill would “not honor the framework and thus the premises on which the legalization initiative was successfully advocated to the public.” Though WASAVP opposed I-502 in 2012 “for various reasons” they felt that all aspects of cannabis were expected to be “tightly regulated.”
      • While not about commerce, Dawson argued cultivation allowed by the bill couldn’t be regulated and that “the limitations [in HB 1131] sound good but they cannot be reasonably enforced.”
      • Dawson was also worried about the “increased access youth would have” which related to a “decreased perception of harm that also contributes to youth usage.”
      • Dawson cited a “Canadian study of very negative health impacts where home grows have been allowed” which was summarized in his written testimony. He may have been referring to research from the Canadian National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health (NCCEH) which concluded, in part, that “[a]lthough there is some evidence to suggest that personal cannabis cultivation will introduce or exacerbate environmental health risks in the home, a number of key uncertainties remain. The magnitude and duration of these potential risks depend on the extent of cannabis cultivation (number of people that opt to grow in the home), the scale of grows (abiding by plant limits vs. overgrowth), and the persistence of home growers (“sticking with it” vs. abandoning grows for more convenient retail cannabis).
      • Dawson returned to discussing I-502 for “the context in which we must oppose this bill” as being about reductions by the legislature in prevention funding outlined in the initiative. “Those promised funds have been cut basically in half every single year for the last three years,” he said, but with a “more robust prevention system in this state” WASAVP could “entertain a proposal of this nature.”
      • Dawson promised an openness to engage with stakeholders “to find out what the proponents want including this” in exchange for “what they can support by way of prevention.” He asked for an “interim work group” in which WASAVP had a role “to examine these issues.”
        • Dawson also suggested an interim cannabis work group to WA House COG members while opposing craft cannabis legislation, HB 2279, on February 3rd. There he reminded legislators of I-502’s intent to direct “substantial revenue” to prevention organizations such as WASAVP but that “most of those revenues were siphoned into the general fund.” Dawson added “to their credit, the marijuana businesses helped us oppose that siphoning, so did the ACLU, but we were overruled” by lawmakers (audio – 2m, video).
    • Jim Potts, Rural Counties Lobbyist (signed in)
    • Neil Weaver, Washington State Patrol (WSP) Captain, Government and Media Relations (signed in)
  • To continue the bill’s progress, the Appropriations Committee has until Tuesday February 11th to pass HB 1131 out of committee during executive session.
Here are shared documents for your review: