Washington State Legislature - Cannabis Bill Activity
(March 25-28, 2019) - Summary

The state’s new hemp program continues to move forward and two medical cannabis bills also received lawmaker attention.

Here are some observations of Washington State Legislature public meetings from Monday March 25th through Thursday March 28th.

My top takeaways:

On Monday March 25th, The House Commerce and Gaming Committee hosted a public hearing for SB 5276, “Concerning hemp production."

  • SB 5276 was granted a public hearing in its Senate policy committee on January 29th and a substitute bill was passed during executive session on February 7th. The bill was granted a public hearing in its Senate fiscal committee on February 25th and was passed during a subsequent executive session. Engrossed Second Substitute SB 5276 (E2SSB 5276) was passed by the full Senate on March 12th with one amendment.
  • The House Commerce and Gaming Committee hosted a public hearing for SB 5276.
    • Staff Counsel Peter Clodfelter summarized the bill’s effects (audio – 2m, video); from the House bill analysis:
      • Establishes a hemp agricultural commodity program, under the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s (WSDA) jurisdiction, to replace the Industrial Hemp Research Program, which is repealed January 2020.
      • Requires the WSDA to develop and submit the state’s plan for regulating hemp production to the United States Department of Agriculture, with certain minimum components, under a process included in the 2018 Farm Bill.
      • Authorizes Washington State University to develop and make accessible an Internet-based application to provide regional communications concerning recommended planting times for hemp crops in Washington.
      • Amends the Controlled Substances Act to expressly exclude hemp from scheduled substances.
    • Kelly McLain, Policy Advisor to the Director of the WSDA, testified “other” saying that the “fiscal ask for this program is not included in the governor’s budget.” McLain said WSDA costs for the program were “first year impacts” as the department expected the program to be “fully self-sustaining after year one.” McLain said WSDA had worked with stakeholders and “with the proposed amendments [the agricultural commodity program] would allow Washington producers the opportunity to participate in this new and emerging market” (audio – 1m, video).
    • Josh Ashby, an attorney with Lane Powell, told the committee he represented “many clients with an interest in growing hemp” and lauded the bill for “bringing Washington up to speed” with hemp policies in other states. He favorably cited an amendment on hemp as a food product as it brought the subject “down to the state level for administration” while the federal government developed more robust policies (audio – 2m, video).

On Tuesday, March 26th, House Commerce and Gaming Committee held an executive session for SB 5276, “Concerning hemp production,” which saw the bill amended and passed.

  • SB 5276 was amended and passed during the House policy committee’s executive session.
    • Clodfelter outlined two amendments for the bill (audio – 3m, video): 5276-S2.E AMH COG H2541.1 from Committee Chair Derek Stanford:
      • Amends the definition of postharvest test to specify that one of the authorized postharvest tests of hemp is a test of hemp based on whole ground plant samples without heat applied.
      • Provides that all receipts from fees established under the new hemp program are deposited in the Hemp Regulatory Account, rather than referencing only receipts from license fees.
      • Eliminates the requirement that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) must have approved Washington’s hemp plan submitted to the USDA before the Washington State Department of Agriculture must engage in expedited rule making to adopt the state hemp plan.
      • Removes the prohibition in the existing Industrial Hemp Research Program on processing industrial hemp, except seed, as food, extract, oil, cake, concentrate, resin, or other preparation for topical use, oral consumption, or inhalation by humans.
    • 5276-S2.E AMH COG H2542.1 from Ranking Member Drew MacEwen:
      • Removes the phrase “that are allowable under federal law” from the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s (WSDA) new obligation to regulate the processing of hemp for food products, so the WSDA must regulate the processing of hemp for food products in the same manner as other food processing without regard to whether the food products are allowable under federal law. Prohibits the WSDA from considering foods containing hemp to be adulterated when produced in compliance with state law and the WSDA’s rules.
    • Discussing his proposed amendment, Stanford said H2541.1 would “add a few changes to the timing of how various bits of this bill go into effect and change some of the language to line up with the House version of the bill that we passed out of here.” The amendment was unanimously adopted by voice vote (audio – 1m, video).
    • MacEwen said his proposed amendment, H2542.1, would also “[line] the Senate bill up” with HB 1401, passed by the committee on February 19th. Stanford concurred and the amendment was unanimously adopted by voice vote (audio – 1m, video).
  • Commenting on the newly amended bill before the committee, Stanford said it “takes advantage of changes in federal law” on hemp and “allows more options for agriculture” which would benefit the state economy. MacEwen seconded that view and the bill received a unanimous “do pass” recommendation (audio – 1m, video).
  • E2SSB 5276 was referred to the House Rules Committee for potential next steps.

The Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee hosted a public hearing on HB 1095, “Concerning the administration of marijuana to students for medical purposes,” on Wednesday March 27th.

  • HB 1095 was granted a public hearing in its House policy committee on January 25th and a substitute bill was passed during executive session on February 1st. Substitute HB 1095 (SHB 1095) was passed by the full House on March 12th.
  • Committee Staff Coordinator Ailey Kato briefed members on the bill’s effects (audio – 2m, video); from the Senate bill report:
    • Requires school districts to permit a student who meets state law requirements to consume marijuana concentrates on school grounds, aboard a school bus, or while attending a school-sponsored event.
    • Directs school districts to adopt a policy to authorize parents or guardians to administer marijuana concentrates to a student for medical purposes upon request by a parent or guardian of a student who is a qualifying patient.
    • Provides that the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and school districts must suspend implementation of these provisions if certain conditions are met.
    • Kato said the fiscal note had an “indeterminate” cost but pointed to the state receiving federal funding and that it was “unknown what action, if any, the federal government will take if this bill were to pass.” She went on to note that in fiscal year 2018, Washington got $908 million in federal education funding. Saying that Section 4 of the bill permitted OSPI to suspend implementation if a federal official “issues a communication that suggests federal funding will be withheld if the state continues implementation.” The legislation also requires the Washington State Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to issue a letter verifying federal money won’t be compromised.
  • Representative Brian Blake, the bill’s sponsor, testified that SHB 1095 was “about keeping these kids in school” and that most students would be using “[cannabidiol (CBD)] oil.” Blake described a constituent whose child qualified for medical cannabis, but had to leave school grounds to administer their medication. “This is an attempt to craft a policy that allows these kids to stay in school,” he assured senators. He added, “we don’t want to put federal funding at risk” and said he incorporated language from OSPI to create a “narrowly crafted bill” (audio – 1m, video).
    • Committee Chair Lisa Wellman asked, and Blake confirmed, the bill wouldn’t require involvement from school personnel (audio – 3m, video).
    • Senator Keith Wagoner wondered who gave healthcare approval for a student to qualify for medical cannabis. “What type of person can authorize this under your bill?” Blake responded that children need to have a card authorized by their physician under the bill. He estimated that between 50-90 students might qualify.
      • RCW 69.51A.220 outlines medical authorization of cannabis for persons under 18 years old.
    • Senator Brad Hawkins asked if the bill was for “CBD oil” only. Blake answered, “What we don’t want, you know, the parent’s not going to come into school with smokable marijuana and smoke marijuana on the school grounds.” He said it would often be a tincture added to cookies, juice, or milk. Wellman said different students might need different products.
  • Roz Thompson, Government Relations and Advocacy Director from the Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP), testified “other” saying that principals had a “mixed reaction” best summarized by a “quizzical face emoji.” She stated the group would “support it for the students who need it” and said the “very narrow definition” for qualifying students helped the bill (audio – 2m, video).
  • Lucinda Young, representing the Washington Education Association (WEA), also testified “other” on the bill. Noting “unique challenges” around cannabis due to federal law, she said WEA would remain neutral so long as school staff wasn’t required to participate. She indicated the licenses of school nurses could be at risk (audio – 1m, video).
    • Hawkins observed that few speakers testified “con” at recent hearings before probing deeper about WEA’s preference on SHB 1095. Young responded that health bills were judged by what school personnel were asked to do because WEA were “not doctors.” Because staff would “not take part in this process at all,” the group was neutral (audio – 2m, video).
  • John Barclay said his daughter, River, had her first seizure in 2014 due to a generalized epileptic disorder. Barclay told members other drugs “did harm” to his daughter whereas cannabis “works phenomenally.” He said current law gave schools the choice to allow cannabis treatments, but few districts did. Barclay confirmed there would be “no contamination to other students” because the bill would only allow usage of non-smokable products. Barclay highlighted the approach of other states, specifically New Jersey’s law and a recent Colorado law, which allowed school nurses to dispense cannabis. He claimed policies were “working in other states” and said accessibility for qualifying children would mean greater access to therapy with special education staff, therapy that Barclay and River would engage to make her “more independent as an adult” (audio – 3m, video).
    • Senator Mike Padden asked how cannabis impacted River. Barclay told him the medication had “gotten more advanced through time” and required him to apply the same care a doctor would when measuring a milligram dosage of CBD. “She gets a snack at lunch and goes back to school” Barclay explained and indicated treatment was typically oil measured out onto a cookie or mixed in a drink (audio – 3m, video).
    • Senator Jeff Holy asked whether CBD or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) was the active compound in River’s medicine. Barclay responded that he dispensed “260 milligrams of CBD only” on a daily basis to River and that “there’s no high effect, no psychological effect of it.” Holy mentioned Marinol, an approved synthetic THC, and asked if it had been considered instead. Barclay replied that River had been in a trial for Epidiolex, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved CBD-derived epilepsy medicine, but stopped participation due to complications.
    • See 2017 coverage of the Barclay family by KOMO News.

On Tuesday March 26th, the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee hosted a public hearing for HB 1094, “Establishing compassionate care renewals for medical marijuana qualifying patients.”

  • HB 1094 was granted a public hearing by its House policy committee on January 25th and a substitute bill was passed during executive session on February 1st. Engrossed Substitute HB 1094 (ESHB 1094) was passed by the full House on March 12th with one amendment.
  • The Senate Labor and Commerce Committee hosted a public hearing for HB 1094.
    • Senior Committee Counsel Richard Rogers briefed committee members (audio – 1m, video); from the Senate bill report:
      • Exempts a qualifying patient from the requirement to be physically present and have a photograph taken when seeking to renew registration in the Medical Marijuana Authorization Database and a recognition card, if a health care professional finds it would likely result in a severe hardship to the qualifying patient.
  • Committee Chair Karen Keiser asked Rogers if the only difference between the bill and its companion, SB 5498, was the absence of telemedicine as an option to renew authorizations. Rogers confirmed that was correct (audio – 1m, video).
  • No one signed up to testify at the public hearing.
  • Keiser reported two people signed in but did not wish to testify: Seth Dawson, lobbyist for the Washington Association of Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention (WASAVP), signed in as “pro.”
  • Sean O’Brien signed in as “other.”

On March 28th, the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee held an executive session for HB 1094, “Establishing compassionate care renewals for medical marijuana qualifying patients,” which saw the bill amended and passed.