Growing frustrated with Olympia’s lack of action surrounding home cultivation—Washington State is the only adult use cannabis state that does not allow adults over twenty one to grow cannabis at home, and the legislature has declined to pass a bill allowing it every time one has been put forward since legalization, the current session included—a group of Washington weed jesters have come up with a creative act of civil disobedience to spread “wild” cannabis plants across the state. In a recent press release, these enthusiastic activists explained a little about what they’ve been up to: Clandestinely sowing everyone’s favorite plant from Vancouver to Lynden.

Why go rogue?

The “overgrowers,” as they call themselves, say that homegrow is one of the most essential pieces of legalization, ensuring patients have access to sufficient amounts of the strains they need to stay healthy. They worry that, in their haste to embrace reform and undo the damage of the War on Drugs, Washingtonians either didn’t care or didn’t know that home cultivation wasn’t included in the historic 2012 initiative. That was a big was a mistake, the overgrowers say.

Since then, citizens, activists, industry insiders, and lobbyists have attempted to persuade the Washington State Legislature, over opposition from the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB), to pass a homegrow bill. The legislation has repeatedly and consistently failed to pass such a bill, even though every other adult use cannabis state allows patients and enthusiasts to grow their own. So after years of lobbying and advocacy, the growers said they just weren’t buying Olympia’s continued inaction, and felt a provocative campaign to introduce so called “wild weed” to the Evergreen State was a better way to get their message across.

“We feel people really need to see just how harmless this plant is. There are parts of the world where cannabis just grows on the side of the road”, says a Washington overgrower, who asked to remain anonymous. “We’d like to get the same dynamic going here in Washington, to show the utter idiocy of keeping this plant so tightly controlled.”

The plants aren’t harvested and processed, only left to grow, seed, and re-seed, slowly peppering Washington with cannabis plants. Planting happens in the spring.” The idea began as “Plant on Federal Land Day,” a protest over a medical marijuana patient’s growing rights, and got bigger and bigger, according to that overgrower.

“We probably planted or gave away about seven hundred plants in total from our various starting points around Washington,” they guessed. “People would call and say, Hey, I’m going over here. Can I get a plant or two to put over there. We even had some planted near a Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) higher-up’s neighborhood, but we don’t think these survived. We did have some patches make it, roughly three hundred plants we think, but finding strains that will thrive in Washington’s harsh environment has been a bitch.”

Still, they’ve persevered. The cannabis sativa plant is a hardy one; it evolved on the steppes of Eurasia and has since spread to nearly every corner of the globe. Over the millennia, growers have bred the plant for specific environments and uses, leaving many cultivars unsuited for the harsh weather in Washington State. But the overgrowers rely on proper placement to help their plants along, planting gardens near streams or low areas and hoping some hardy genes emerge via natural selection to make these clusters of protest sustainable year after year.

Wild weed

A rogue cannabis plant, growing somewhere in Washington.

Anyone who has seen a seedy ounce of marijuana knows the cannabis plant is a seed producing machine. One plant can birth thousands of seeds if males and females aren’t separated in late summer. If allowed to seed, once the cold weather hits, the parent plants die, the seedy flowers/buds fall to the ground and the biomass left behind provides nutrients and cover for the new seeds. Additionally, wind, birds, and rodents can spread seeds around. Also, all of the cannabis plant’s notoriously sticky oils help protect the seeds. Over the winter, rain brings soil and more biomass to the fallen seeds, providing a medium for the seeds to germinate in the spring. If conditions are just right, some of those germinated seeds will grow into mature plants and repeat the cycle.

“The biggest challenge we have is the dry times in the summer. We can’t plant too close to streams because of flooding, but if we get them placed just right, the roots can make it down to the water table. We have a big project in mind this year that will involve some rain barrels and a drip system, but we can’t share much more details than that. Maybe some others will join in and start planting their own protest gardens. We’ll see”, says an overgrower.

All the hard work of growing rogue is worth it, they believe, in hopes that if Washingtonians start seeing cannabis plants growing naturally by the road or near their favorite streams, it will remove some of the stigma around homegrowing. Legislators have been hesitant to pass homegrow, they suspect, because they don’t want to be seen as allowing dangerous illegal grow ops. But if there are pot plants everywhere and the state doesn’t descend into reefer madness, they hope, maybe people growing four to six plants in the backyard won’t seem like such a big deal.