If Massachusetts voters legalize marijuana this fall, it wouldn’t just mean customers could buy pot at stores. It would also be legal to grow a limited amount at home — up to six plants per individual, with a maximum of 12 per household.
Homegrown marijuana already has been legalized in Colorado, Alaska, and Oregon, with differing restrictions depending on the state. Washington, which also legalized marijuana, did not legalize home-growing for recreational use.
In Massachusetts, the provision is one of the many debate points between legalization supporters and opponents. Here are some of the arguments on both sides:
Those in favor say…
The group pushing the pro-pot ballot question is called the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, and much of its mission derives from that title.
“It’s not going to be anything other than what already occurs in Massachusetts regarding home-brewed beer,” said Jim Borghesani, a spokesman for the campaign.
Borghesani said that is the extent of the campaign’s argument in favor of home-growing, and said he expects it would be a “micro market.”
Some advocates have said that allowing consumers to grow their own marijuana serves as a check on the industry becoming overly commercialized and controlled by corporate interests. Mark A.R. Kleiman, a professor of public policy at UCLA, argued in The New York Times against opening Washington, D.C. to commercial sales but to allow people to legally grow and gift marijuana, in an effort to limit commercialization.
In Massachusetts, Steve Epstein, a longtime marijuana advocate, unsuccessfully proposed a different pro-legalization ballot question last year that would have not placed any limits on a person’s ability to grow at home. While Epstein supported marijuana retail, he also supported even less restricted home-growing in hopes of keeping corporate interests at bay.
The Denver Post noted after Colorado made marijuana legal that home-growing might appeal to consumers in cities and towns that do not allow retail stores. Some towns and cities may ultimately ban retail stores in Massachusetts, but it would be more difficult to do so than in Colorado. The proposed Massachusetts law would require municipal governments to pass a referendum to prohibit the stores.
And those opposed…
The Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, an opposition group backed by Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, argues the provision will lure growers from out of state, who will take advantage of the home-grow measure to take the law to other non-legal states to sell. They say this has been an issue in Colorado. Corey Welford, a campaign spokesman, says it could be a bigger problem here because Massachusetts is smaller and more tightly bunched with neighboring states. The campaign additionally argues that enforcing the 12-plant-per-home limit would be difficult, if not impossible, for law enforcement.
Daniel Delaney, a medical marijuana lobbyist who is leading a secondary opposition campaign that has more directly targeted home-growing as an issue, says he takes issue with the idea in apartment buildings and multifamily homes, because neighbors may not want to live above or below a dozen marijuana plants.
“In densely populated areas, it’s just too much,” he said. “When you cultivate like that … you’re going to smell it.”
In response, Borghesani noted that the law would allow landlords to ban the growing of marijuana on their property.
Delaney also said he worries homegrown pot in homes would increase youth access to the drug. Concerns about youth access have been voiced by opponents for the broader law, and not just the home-grow provision, though there is little definitive evidence that legalization in Colorado — which allows home-growing — has increased youth and teen pot usage.