The Week Ahead
(March 9, 2020)

Five cannabis-related bills and the supplemental operating budget remain active as the Washington State Legislature’s short session draws to a close on Thursday.

Here’s a look at cannabis-related policymaking events on Cannabis Observer’s calendars in the week ahead.

Tuesday March 10th

On Tuesday at 10am PT, the weekly Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) Board Caucus was scheduled to recur.

Wednesday March 11th

On Wednesday at 9am PT, the WSLCB Voluntary Compliance Program Listen and Learn Forum was scheduled to occur.

  • [ Event Details ]
  • Under legislation enacted in 2019 (SB 5318), the WSLCB is required to develop a voluntary compliance program intended to give cannabis licensees an opportunity to request assistance from the agency in ensuring their business is in compliance with all relevant state laws and regulations, in most circumstances without the risk of receiving a violation just because help was requested and an enforcement officer was asked to review premises or business operations. The legislature directed the agency to create the program by rule in consultation with cannabis businesses and their employees.
  • An external work group of self-selected participants met twice before the listen and learn forum on November 12th and February 24th to review v1.0 of the draft conceptual rules.
  • On Wednesday, participants can provide feedback to the agency on v2.0 of the draft conceptual rules.

On Wednesday at 9:30am PT, the Washington State Board of Health (SBOH) Board Meeting was scheduled to recur.

  • [ Event Details ]
  • The Washington State Board of Health (SBOH) was established by the state constitution in 1889 to provide leadership and advance public health practices that protect and improve the public’s health. It is a separate entity from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) although the Secretary of Health sits on the Board and the SBOH leverages DOH facilities. The SBOH provides a public forum for engagement with the State public health system.
  • The SBOH has been asked by the Secretary of Health, John Wiesman, to consider renewing their ban prohibiting the use of vitamin E acetate in vapor products. The SBOH adopted the initial emergency rule implementing the ban at their November 18 board meeting in Spokane. Absent any action, it expires on March 20th.
  • The Board will also hear a legislative update from SBOH Executive Director Michelle Davis. Cannabis Observer anticipates hearing an update on SB 6254, the Governor’s request legislation filed in close collaboration with the DOH which seeks to radically reshape the non-THC vapor products marketplace in the wake of the vaping associated lung injury (VALI) health scare to address concerns about access to vapor products by persons under age 21.
  • The SBOH will also hear an update on the COVID-19 outbreak from the Secretary of Health [ presentation ].

On Wednesday at 1:30pm PT, the three-member Board and agency leadership convene their weekly WSLCB Executive Management Team (EMT) meeting.

Thursday March 12th

Thursday is the Washington State Legislature’s Last Day of Regular Session.

  • The 2020 session cutoff calendar describes the final procedural gateway as the “[l]ast day allowed for regular session under state constitution.”
  • At publication time, Cannabis Observer was tracking five cannabis-related bills:
    • HB 2826 - “Clarifying the authority of the liquor and cannabis board to regulate marijuana vapor products.” HB 2826 was unanimously passed by the Senate on Friday March 6th. As the bill was never modified from its original text, it awaits signatures by the Speaker of the House and the Senate President.
    • HB 2870 - “Allowing additional marijuana retail licenses for social equity purposes.” Derailed by a confusing public hearing in the Washington State Senate Labor and Commerce Committee (WA Senate LBRC) on the morning of February 25th, this very active bill was dismantled to only include a provision to establish an interim task force before being passed along to WA Senate RULE. Pulled to the Senate floor as part of a package of bills on Thursday March 5th, HB 2870 was added to the Order of Consideration late in the afternoon on Friday March 6th where yet another striking amendment, this one by Senator Saldaña, could have been debated before the full chamber. However, the bill was not brought forward for its second reading prior to the 5pm cutoff for bills to be moved by the opposite house. At publication time, HB 2870 remained on the Senate floor and may still be moved given an expansion of retail licenses could result in positive revenue to the State.
    • SB 5867 - “Resentencing of persons convicted of drug offenses.” This bill was passed by the Legislature and awaits delivery to the Governor.
    • SB 6206 - “Creating a certificate of compliance for marijuana business premises that meet the statutory qualifications at the time of application.”  Heard in WA House COG on February 24th, the “location compliance” bill was moved the following day and referred to WA House RUL. SB 6206 was pulled to the House 2nd reading calendar on March 4th, added to the Order of Consideration on the evening of March 5th, and passed by the House without modification. At publication time, the bill awaits signatures in the Senate and House.
    • SB 6254 - “Protecting public health and safety by enhancing the regulation of vapor products.” Following a lengthy amendment process in WA Senate WM on Monday March 2nd, SB 6254 was moved to the Senate floor immediately after the opposite house cutoff on the evening of Friday March 6th. As the bill included a new excise tax of 37%---which was cut in half to 18.5% by concerned republicans in WA Senate WM---the bill could be considered “necessary to implement the budget” (NTIB) and will likely be moved by the Senate this week. It will be interesting to observe whether or not SB 6254 is granted special handling to traverse the House and achieve concurrence in the Senate prior to the end of the regular session on Thursday.
  • Cannabis Observer is also closely tracking the supplemental operating budget bill, SB 6168.
    • Last Monday March 2nd, we described two surprise budget provisos appropriating funds to the WSLCB for a marijuana odor task force and a cannabis data sharing agreement with the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council (ERFC). The following day, WSLCB Director of Legislative Relations Chris Thompson brought the provisos to the WSLCB Board’s attention and shared his interpretations.
    • On Tuesday March 3rd, the Washington State Senate refused to concur in the House’s modifications to SB 6168 prompting the creation of a conference committee. The bipartisan leadership of the Senate Ways and Means Committee (WA Senate WM)---Senators Christine Rolfes, David Frockt, and John Braun---were assigned to represent the Senate on the conference committee. At publication time, the House had not assigned their Representatives.
    • Cannabis Observer continues to review both the engrossed Senate and engrossed House versions of the supplemental budget. The House version of the bill includes a $100K appropriation to the University of Washington (UW) to develop “frameworks for future studies” on “impairment due to marijuana use” and “[c]orrelation between age of use, dosage of use, and appearance of occurrence of cannabis induced psychosis.”
      • Representative Lauren Davis introduced a controversial bill, HB 2546 - “Concerning the potency of marijuana products”, which was granted a hearing by the House Commerce and Gaming Committee (WA House COG) on January 30th. At the conclusion of that hearing---which saw six people in favor and 48 opposed to the legislation---Chair Strom Peterson stated, “this bill is not going to be moving out of this committee but the conversation certainly is.” A report on the frameworks is due to “the appropriate committees of the legislature” by December 1st, 2020.
      • The $100K in funding for this research would be appropriated from the State’s General Fund. In fiscal year 2021, UW and Washington State University (WSU) were projected to directly receive a combined $387K from an anticipated $438M in cannabis excise taxes and license fees collected by WSLCB, $152M of which is siphoned into the General Fund.

Friday March 13th

On Friday at 12pm PT, the Cannabis Observer Legislative Meetup was scheduled to recur.

  • [ Event Details ]
  • This will be our last in-person meetup for the legislative session.