The U.S. Senate pushing legal marijuana is no longer a rumor. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer told his colleagues during a mid-July (2021) session that he plans to make marijuana legalization a top priority in the coming months. If he manages to push a bill similar to the already approved House bill through, it will mean substantial changes. For one, home grow would probably explode nationwide.
What would widespread home grow look like? That depends on the extent to which federal legislation regulates marijuana. It is one thing to legalize marijuana at the federal level while exercising some measure of control. It’s another matter to completely decriminalize and walk away without any follow-up control.
Common sense seems to suggest that Washington would attempt to control marijuana to the same degree that it controls alcohol. While alcohol is legal across the country, Washington still regulates its production and transport. How the government approaches home brewing could provide a model for how it might address home grow of legal marijuana.
Home Brew as a Hobby
Federal and state laws allow consumers to brew their own beer at home as a hobby. They can also make their own wine. However, individuals are not allowed to distill their own spirits – even for their personal consumption. Distilling spirits in any volume requires a federal license that comes with a hefty fee.
Having said that, reality suggests that federal authorities are not interested in prosecuting individual property owners who operate small stills for their own benefit. As long as spirits are being distributed among friends or sold in the local community, a blind eye is generally turned.
Applying the same sort of thing to marijuana could create an interesting conundrum. The one thing about marijuana that doesn’t apply to alcohol is the distinction between recreational and medical use. Washington could decide to draw a line in the sand here.
Home Grow for Medical Use
As things currently stand, regulating home grow for medical purposes is left to the states. Some states allow it while others do not. Utah is in the latter camp. Even federal decriminalization may not be enough to sway Utah lawmakers to allow home grow.
The issue in Utah is one of preventing unrestrained recreational use, according to officials at Utah Marijuana, an organization that helps patients in Utah with how to get a medical cannabis card. They say that the state legislature is a long way from approving recreational use.
Washington could leave home grow for medical purposes to the states. They could also intervene, thereby prohibiting home grow in order to maintain strict medical standards. After all, the FDA doesn’t allow consumers to compound their own prescription medications at home.
Home Grow for Recreational Use
Where recreational use is concerned, the federal government could go one of two ways. It could follow the example of home brewing beers and ales, an activity allowed under federal law. Conversely, they could apply the same standards as currently applied to spirits. That would mean home grow for recreational purposes would only be allowed with a federal license.
It is not unreasonable to assume that federal legalization of marijuana could lead to a free-for-all – at least in the short term. We might even see a repeat of Prohibition-era alcohol distribution until Washington and the states get their act together.
When all is said and done though, it is highly likely that any attempt by Washington to decriminalize marijuana will involve some level of federal control. That control might be limited only to medical cannabis. But it might also cover all cannabis products, recreationally and medicinally.