WA House COG - Committee Meeting
(March 19, 2019) - SB 5298

The House Commerce and Gaming Committee hosted a public hearing on SB 5298 – “Regarding labeling of marijuana products”

  • Details on SB 5298's Senate policy committee public hearing and executive session, and a Senate floor activity and amendment update. Engrossed Substitute SB 5298 (ESSB 5298) was passed by the full Senate on March 11th with two amendments.
  • For additional context, see the WSLCB Board interim policies signed in early January regarding cannabis labeling.
  • Kyle Raymond, Research Analyst for the committee, described ESSB 5298’s proposed effects (audio – 2m, video). From the House Bill Analysis:
    • Allows marijuana products identified as Department of Health compliant to include additional information on labels that provide the product’s intended role in maintaining a bodily structure or function.
    • Prohibits marijuana product label information from: containing claims that marijuana products diagnose, mitigate, treat, cure, or prevent any disease; including false or misleading statements; or being especially appealing to children.
    • Allows a marijuana product label to contain directions or recommended conditions of use, describe the product’s psychoactive effect, or make a legal claim related to the nonmarijuana ingredients.
    • Provides the state and its agencies with immunity from civil liability for a licensee’s descriptions on the labels.
    • Raymond also noted the bill won’t be effective until January 1st, 2020.
  • Senator Ann Rivers explained the bill emerged from concerns raised by “foremost companies for cannabis wellness” and would enable people to “know what they’re putting into their bodies and how it can affect them” (audio – 1m, video).
  • Brooke Davies spoke on behalf of WACA, saying they supported the bill in its current form (audio – 2m, video).
  • Chris Masse said the bill tried to replicate the way the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulated supplements by distinguishing “health claims from structural and functional claims.” She explained only Department of Health (DOH) medically compliant products would be permitted to include structural or functional claims (audio – 1m, video).
  • Wendy Hull, owner of Fairwinds, said they were a DOH-compliant company and product intent had always been expressed through its product names. However, recent Board interim policies had hindered “the ability to even say words such as ‘sleep’” creating a public safety concern about whether consumers could accurately identify a product’s purpose. Hull said Fairwinds had been manufacturing cannabis products since 2015 and never been accused of making false claims on its labels (audio – 2m, video).
  • Mindon Win, representing edibles processor Botanica Seattle, supported the bill to enable his business to explain what people are putting in their bodies: “This is a cannabis product. It’s going to have an effect on your mind or body.” He said this was especially important because the medical and recreational markets had been “fused” (audio – 1m, video).
    • Vice Chair Kristine Reeves asked if it was common for the enforcement arm of an agency to regulate product labeling. Masse said it did happen at the federal level, but even there enforcement was rarely able to unilaterally pull a business license (audio – 1m, video).
  • Dawson spoke for WASAVP on ESSB 5298, and said he opposed the “underlying bill” but supported the amended language as written. His goal was to support further changes if they came from DOH (audio – 2m, video).
    • Reeves asked Dawson why enforcement should have authority over product labeling. He answered that he liked the DOH’s involvement in the process and that WSLCB’s role would shift towards “other enforcement aspects” and didn’t anticipate WSLCB would override DOH’s decisions (audio – 1m, video).
  • ESSB 5298 is scheduled for executive session in the Commerce and Gaming Committee on March 26th at 3:30 PM.