The legislature is getting more creative in its handling of cannabis-related bills and budget provisos as the close of the regular session approaches on March 12th.
Here’s a look at cannabis-related policymaking events on Cannabis Observer’s calendars in the week ahead.
Monday March 2nd
On Monday at 10am PT, the Washington State Senate Ways and Means Committee (WA Senate WM) was scheduled to convene a committee meeting and work session.
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- At publication time, WA Senate WM was planning to conduct a significant amount of legislative activity on the day of the opposite house fiscal committee cutoff: 11 public hearings, 84 executive sessions, plus a work session with the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) on the “Statewide Coronavirus Response.”
- The DOH will also be interested in the outcome from an executive session on SB 6254 - “Protecting public health and safety by enhancing the regulation of vapor products.”
- Cannabis Observer has called SB 6254 a “zombie bill” because it continues lurching forward irrespective of the legislature’s formal cutoff calendar, which required all “normal” bills to make it out of their house of origin fiscal committees on February 11th. SB 6254 appears to be designated “necessary to implement the budget” (NTIB), an obscure informal distinction granting immunity from the Legislature’s procedural gateways. It was heard for over an hour by WA Senate WM on February 20th.
- The financial import of SB 6254 had been uncertain as the original preliminary fiscal note projected continuation of the State’s war on flavor would eviscerate revenue from non-THC vapor products by roughly $15M per biennium while creating new operating expenses on the order of $3M per biennium. However, the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee (WA Senate HLTC) adopted a proposed substitute which carved out an exception for menthol-flavored vapor products, restricted sales to licensed vapor retail shops, and imposed a new 37% excise tax. On February 25th, a substantially revised fiscal note for the current version of the bill projected positive revenue to the State of $15M per biennium.
- Were the bill to be passed out of WA Senate WM, it would be referred to the Washington State Senate Rules Committee (WA Senate RULE). To achieve passage, the bill would have to be scheduled for floor activity in the Senate, passed by the chamber, and referred for a sprint through the House and back again before March 12th, the last day of the regular session.
- The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) will be interested in the outcome from an executive session on HB 2826 - “Clarifying the authority of the liquor and cannabis board to regulate marijuana vapor products.”
- The WSLCB’s agency request legislation on THC vapor products (and more) complements SB 6254 which was requested by the Governor’s office in collaboration with the DOH. HB 2826’s public hearing in WA Senate WM was on Friday February 28th (video - 6m) during which WSLCB Director of Legislative Relations Chris Thompson made the case for the bill (video - 2m) and Philip Dawdy of the Washington Cannabis Association was asked to explain synthetic terpenes (video - 1m). The staff report (video - 2m) provides a more complete description of the bill’s main provisions than what is documented in the latest Senate Bill Report.
- As this bill has yet to be altered from its original form at introduction, passage by the Senate untouched would expedite the legislation towards the Governor’s desk.
Monday is the Washington State Legislature Opposite House Fiscal Committee Cutoff.
- The 2020 session cutoff calendar describes this checkpoint as the “[l]ast day to read in opposite house committee reports (pass bills out of committee and read them into the record on the floor) from House fiscal committees and Senate Ways & Means and Transportation committees.”
- At publication time, Cannabis Observer was tracking six cannabis-related bills.
- HB 2826 - “Clarifying the authority of the liquor and cannabis board to regulate marijuana vapor products.”
- HB 2870 - “Allowing additional marijuana retail licenses for social equity purposes.” The curiously continuously modified WSLCB agency request legislation to establish a social equity program was heard in the Washington State Senate Labor and Commerce Committee (WA Senate LBRC) on the morning of February 25th. It was dismantled that afternoon to only include a provision to establish an interim task force and passed along to WA Senate RULE.
- SB 5867 - “Resentencing of persons convicted of drug offenses.” This bill sits in the Washington State House Rules Committee (WA House RUL) awaiting assignment to the House floor.
- SB 6057 - “Concerning price differentials in the sale of marijuana.” The “wholesale discounts” bill was heard in the Washington State House Commerce and Gaming Committee (WA House COG) on February 24th. While scheduled for executive session the following day, it was not moved. Barring the improbable, this bill will be cut off for the session after Monday.
- SB 6206 - “Creating a certificate of compliance for marijuana business premises that meet the statutory qualifications at the time of application.” Also heard in WA House COG on February 24th, the “location compliance” bill was moved the following day and referred to WA House RUL.
- SB 6254 - “Protecting public health and safety by enhancing the regulation of vapor products.”
- In addition, Cannabis Observer took a look at the supplemental budget bills which were moving last week and found two surprises.
- HB 2325 / SB 6168 - “Making 2019-2021 fiscal biennium supplemental operating appropriations.” At publication time, the Senate version of the supplemental budget bill had the most momentum having been passed by the Senate on Thursday February 27th and---remarkably---heard in the House, substantially amended, and passed on Friday February 28th. We reviewed the Engrossed Senate Substitute version of the bill, and have not yet had opportunity to review the House’s many amendments which very well may have altered the provisions we detail below.
- The WSLCB’s budget begins on page 87 of the bill in section 140. Provision 13 states “$30,000 of the dedicated marijuana account—state appropriation for fiscal year 2021 is provided solely for the board to convene a task force on marijuana odor with members as provided in this subsection.” The budget proviso exactly matches the language of SB 6089, a bill introduced by Senator Judy Warnick of the 13th legislative district, which was not granted a public hearing by WA Senate LBRC, its initial policy committee.
- The proviso frames the scope of the task force’s purpose in what some might consider an unusual way: “The task force shall review the following issues: The available and most appropriate ways or methods to mitigate, mask, conceal, or otherwise address marijuana odors and emissions and the potentially harmful impact of marijuana odors and emissions on people who live, work, or are located in close proximity to a marijuana production or processing facility, including but not limited to: (a) Filtering systems; (b) natural odor masking mechanisms or odor concealing mechanisms; (c) zoning and land use controls and regulations; and (d) changes to state laws and regulations including, but not limited to, laws and regulations related to nuisance and public health.”
- There is no membership seat granted for any of the regional clean air agencies, and only one seat for “A representative from the recreational marijuana community or a marijuana producer, processor, or retailer licensed by the state liquor and cannabis board.”
- The one time the WSLCB leadership publicly discussed SB 6089 on January 29th, Board Member Russ Hauge described the bill as “a terrible thicket” for the agency to wade into.
- Provision 12 introduces new language enforcing the WSLCB’s obligation to provide actionable data from its traceability system to another state agency: “The board must provide the economic revenue forecast council access to cannabis data. The data must include price and quantity of product type information. Product type includes at least extracts, smokable cannabis, and edibles. Cannabis tax and revenue is forecasted by the economic revenue forecast council and the board must provide information to them in accordance with RCW 82.33.020(3).” The provision infers the agency has not delivered actionable data to the Council since the close of the traceability contract with BioTrackTHC in November 2017 and prescribes a short timeline for compliance.
Tuesday March 3rd
On Tuesday at 10am PT, the weekly Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) Board Caucus was scheduled to recur.
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Wednesday March 4th
On Wednesday at 10am PT, the bi-weekly WSLCB Board Meeting was scheduled to recur.
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On Wednesday at 1:30pm PT, the three-member Board and agency leadership convene their weekly WSLCB Executive Management Team (EMT) meeting.
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Friday March 6th
Friday at 5pm PT is the Washington State Legislature Opposite House Cutoff.
- The 2020 session cutoff calendar describes this procedural gateway as the “[l]ast day to consider (pass) opposite house bills (5 p.m.) (except initiatives and alternatives to initiatives, budgets and matters necessary to implement budgets, differences between the houses, and matters incident to the interim and closing of the session).”
- There's an asterisk: “*After 5:00pm on the 54th day, only initiatives, alternatives to initiatives, budgets and matters necessary to implement budgets, matters that affect state revenue, messages pertaining to amendments, differences between the houses, and matters incident to the interim and closing of the session may be considered.”
On Friday at 12pm PT, the Cannabis Observer Legislative Meetup was scheduled to recur.
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