As marijuana legalization spreads to more states in the coming years activists should push to include a limited home growing provision in any bill or ballot initiative. It is going increasingly clear that the three major arguments against this are either weak or unfounded.
Popular Support – The main reason the Washington State campaign didn’t include home grow in Initiative 502 was because it modestly hurt the measure in their testing polling. They thought making sure some form of legalization was approved by voters in at least was critical so wrote it as tight as possible.
That milestone has now been crossed and the evidence indicates a home growing provision doesn’t seem to actually hurt legalization proposals popular support.
In Washington Initiative 502 won with 55.7 percent of the vote doing just 0.4 points better than Amendment 64 in Colorado, which contained a home growing provision, and won with 55.3 percent. Amendment 64 even seems to have outperformed Initiative 502 when you factor that Washington is significantly more liberal. As you can see Amendment 64 actually got more votes than Barack Obama that year while Initiative 502 got less.
In addition Quinnipiac recently surveyed several states about marijuana. They consistently found that percent of voters who would be bothered by one of their neighbors growing marijuana if it was legal was significantly smaller than the percent which oppose legalization in general.
Tax Revenue and the Market – One argument I have heard against home growing is that it would deny the state tax revenue and/or undermine trying to create a regulated legal market. We have seen in Colorado the legal market is doing very well and the state is collecting marijuana taxes at a rapid pace.
Looking at alcohol or tobacco for a comparison we see very few people actually choose to brew their own beer or grow their own tobacco. Most people are lazy and want convenience. The Netherlands actually has a very low rates of home growing by marijuana users compared to other countries because there is a convenient quasi-legal market.
Federal Interference – There was potentially some concern that allowing limited home growing could make the federal agencies more likely to crackdown on a state. The fact the federal government hasn’t said anything about home growing, hasn’t gone after home growers in Colorado and so far hasn’t treat Washington and Colorado differently seems to elevate that concern for now. Things could always change but a home growing provision hasn’t drawn extra federal attention.
How to treat home growing is one of the many policies decision that needs to be made when a state legalizes marijuana. While it is a modest provision that will effect a relatively small number of people that is exactly why it is important to get it right in the first place. Legislatures are busy and often slow to get around to fixing non-pressing issues. Because the end of alcohol prohibition didn’t legalize home brewing it took decades to earn that right. It was only a year ago that Alabama and Mississippi finally became the last two states to make it legal to brew beer at home.
If it is not included from the start it could take years and possibly decades to get it added later.
Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy