If you’re considering a sole proprietorship, realize that you personally will have unlimited liability. You are the business. There is no legal separation between you and your personal assets and the assets of your business. What this means for you is that you are personally responsible for all debts or actions on behalf of your business. Your assets are on the line in the case of a lawsuit or unpaid bills.
One nice thing about growing marijuana (as opposed to selling it as a retailer) is that you don’t have to sweat finding the most convenient place for customers. In fact, for security purposes, an out-of-the-way location can be a bonus. This can make it a little easier to abide by the state’s zoning requirements.
Whether you’re exploring the possibility of investing in or taking over an existing marijuana production business—or just waiting for the day the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) reopens applications for new licenses—the information below will let you know the steps you need to take to stay in compliance with Washington’s marijuana laws.
What makes growing weed more difficult than other businesses is that entrepreneurs may be hard-pressed to find financing options through traditional methods. Due to federal banking restrictions, banks may not want to offer a small-business loan to a “risky” venture existing in federal gray area. As a result, you may need to seek out investors.
It’s not all bad news though—you can invest in or buy an already-licensed marijuana grow business. Over a thousand producer licenses have been issued in Washington to different types of businesses. Before investing in or buying a business, it’s important to understand and carefully consider the impact that a business’s entity type will have on your operations.
At a minimum, you need a security alarm system on all perimeter entry points and windows.
Typically, quite a few more than a regular Washington business. Besides usual business permits, marijuana producers have to take in consideration how their activities affect the environment—you may need permits for air quality, water quality, solid waste handling, hazardous waste management and more. For instance, in some areas, you’re required to submit a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) checklist so the state can see what kind of impact your business will have. In King, Kitsap, Snohomish and Pierce Counties, marijuana producers and processors are required to submit a pre-construction application with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency—an application that comes with a $1,150 price tag.
Washington has very particular rules about where you can legally produce marijuana. Even if you’re buying a business and keeping its current location, it’s important to keep current on the laws. You never know when you’ll want (or need) to upgrade your location.
- When a plant enters the system (moved from the seedling or clone area to the vegetation production at a young age)
- When plants are, to any extent, harvested or destroyed
- When marijuana is transported out of the facility
- Any theft
- Any samples given for testing or to other licensees in hopes of making a sale
- All sale records
- All excise tax records
- Other information that the board may specify at a later date
Steps to becoming a marijuana producer in Washington State.
Law enforcement hasn’t reported significant problems with home production of beer and wine; the experience with home grows, limited to a few plants, is unlikely to show a different result. Like hobbyists making their own beer and wine, those growing their own cannabis are almost always law-abiding folks, Walsh said.
It would allow those growing cannabis for their own use to know for certain what went into the marijuana. The recent scare over vaping products — especially regarding vaping liquids containing THC derived from cannabis — is now believed to have been caused by the addition of a vitamin E oil that was causing a pneumonia-like illness for hundreds of users nationwide.
Under penalty of law and potential seizure of property, you can’t grow your own.
Both bills, introduced last year, were vetted during committee hearings but didn’t advance further. House Bill 1131 is scheduled for an executive session before the House Committee on Commerce and Gaming today, after which it could advance. Committee Chairman Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, has indicated his support for the House bill. Walsh expected her bill could also be approved soon by the Senate Labor and Commerce committee without an additional hearing.
“We’re past the ‘Reefer Madness,’ days,” said Maureen Walsh, R-College Place, who is the sponsor of Senate Bill 5155. A self-described libertarian, Walsh says allowing adults to grow a few plants seems a logical extension of state law on cannabis.
Among the arguments favoring the grow-your-own legislation:
With the passage of Initiative 502 in 2012, Washington state residents 21 and older — and visitors, for that matter — are allowed to possess and use any combination of the following: an ounce of usable marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana-infused edibles, 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquids and 7 grams of marijuana concentrate.
What you can’t have — unless you have a doctor’s permission for medical marijuana — are any live marijuana plants in your own home or garden.
It could also provide an economic boost to those providing supplies to home growers, in particular lighting and hydroponic systems that would allow for year-round cultivation.
Legislation would allow adults to grow six plants at home, joining eight other states that allow it.