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Washington became one of the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use in 2012. But there are a lot of challenges ahead: the state must set up a licensing system for marijuana growers and sellers, the federal government may mount a challenge, the need to set a new limit on amount of marijuana in the bloodstream for safe driving. And medical marijuana is still in the picture.Over the next several months we will be exploring the issue and tracking the impact of I-502.

Washington could legalize homegrown cannabis this year

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board recommends legislation to allow people to grow four cannabis plants at home.
Flickr Photo/Cannabis Culture (CC BY-NC-ND)
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The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board recommends legislation to allow people to grow four cannabis plants at home.

This could be the year Washington state legalizes growing pot in your own home. Washington is the only state with a legal, recreational marijuana market that doesn't allow recreational home grows.

Democratic State Representative David Sawyer backs new regulations on homegrown marijuana that he expects to be introduced in Olympia this year. He says he’s interested in having the most regulated home cultivation system in the country.

Sawyer: "Since we haven't had directions from the federal government, we just have to use our best instinct about what we know, what we've learned from other states. We learned what not to do. Colorado had a limit of 99 plants and law enforcement had no way of taking down the illegal operations."

In most states that allow home cultivation (including Colorado), the limit is currently six plants. Oregon caps it at four per household. Sawyer says Washington’s number could be between four and six.

Sawyer says there are many benefits to legalizing home grows, especially since some Washington cities still ban retail marijuana shops. He contends the black market is in control in those areas.

Sawyer: "If no other option exists, no retail store, a home grow is a way for at least some folks to provide their own marijuana without having to pay off a criminal element to give it to them."

Federal officials tightened the rules on marijuana this month, but Sawyer says that won't change the state's plans.

He says lawmakers are working with the state's Liquor and Cannabis Board on the homegrown pot legislation. One option would require people to have a license for home cultivation, and another would have a plant tracking system.