WA Legislature - Update
(March 22, 2023)

WA Legislature - Update (March 22, 2023) - Takeaways

All 14 clearly active cannabis bills had been heard by opposite house policy committees, but six still awaited movement after two executive sessions were delayed to allow time for amendment.

Here are some observations of the Washington State Legislature (WA Legislature) for Wednesday March 22nd, the 73rd day of the 2023 Regular Session.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • On Tuesday March 21st, three policy committees convened to host public hearings on three cannabis bills and potentially move five - but actions on two pieces of legislation were postponed to allow for additional amendment work.
    • The Washington State House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee (WA House LAWS) convened on Tuesday morning to consider incorporating two amendments on SB 5123 (“Concerning the employment of individuals who lawfully consume cannabis”).
      • Amendment LEON 823 by Representative Suzanne Schmidt would have shifted the statute chapter in which SB 5123 would be listed in law, allegedly so that it could be overseen and enforced through the Washington State Office of the Attorney General (WA OAG), but it was not adopted.
      • Amendment LEON 822 by Representative Eric Robertson would have more explicitly and encompassingly exempted general law enforcement agencies and first responders from the requirement to cease pre-employment screening of employee candidates for lawful behavior. The amendment was not adopted.
      • The bill was passed as written over the objections of Republicans Schmidt, Robertson, and Conners.
    • Members of the Washington State Senate Labor and Commerce Committee (WA Senate LC) also met on Tuesday morning to move two bills they heard the day before.
      • HB 1772 - “Prohibiting products that combine alcohol and tetrahydrocannabinol.”
        • Legislation to explicitly ban cannabis infused alcohol products in Washington state was recommended by the committee.
      • HB 1563 - “Concerning arrest protections for the medical use of cannabis.”
        • During the staff briefing on the bill to equally protect all authorized cannabis patients from unlawful arrest, Committee Counsel Matt Shepard-Koningsor hesitated to describe it. Senior Staff Coordinator Susan Jones followed up to explain that staff understood the committee intended to hold the bill.  Chair Karen Keiser acknowledged that "hasn't been decided yet" before the committee went at ease for caucus.
        • Following caucus, the bill was indeed held for further work, and Keiser promised an executive session at a future WA Senate LC meeting.
        • At the conclusion of the meeting, Keiser said members were planning "very long" executive sessions on Thursday and Monday, and hoped to not have to meet after that prior to the opposite house policy committee cutoff on Wednesday March 29th.
    • Late on Tuesday afternoon, the Washington State House Regulated Substances and Gaming Committee (WA House RSG) moved one bill, held another, and hosted public hearings on the three remaining pieces of cannabis legislation referred to the committee.
      • SB 5340 - “Regarding limits on the sale and possession of retail cannabis products.”
        • Legislation which would allow low dose cannabis beverages to be sold in larger quantities was recommended out of committee without modification.
      • SB 5405 - “Modifying the liquor and cannabis board's subpoena authority.”
        • No action was taken on the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) request legislation to grant agency staff subpoena authority in relation to cannabis investigations. Co-Chair Sharon Wylie said amendments were expected.
      • SB 5363 - “Concerning cannabis retailer advertising.”
        • Positions (testifying + not testifying - duplicates = total)
          • PRO: 3 + 6 - 0 = 9
          • CON: 1 + 0 - 0 = 1
          • OTHER: 0 + 0 - 0 = 0
      • SB 5069 - “Allowing interstate cannabis agreements.”
        • Positions (testifying + not testifying - duplicates = total)
          • PRO: 3 + 8 - 1 = 10
          • CON: 2 + 1 - 0 = 3
          • OTHER: 0 + 0 - 0 = 0
        • The public hearing on interstate commerce legislation was opened on Monday March 20th and continued Tuesday.
        • Earlier on Wednesday, Wylie re-introduced her amendment to incorporate equity considerations on SB 5069 following remarks she made on Tuesday to that effect. The same amendment was added to the House companion legislation.
      • SB 5546 - “Establishing a Washington state cannabis commission.”
        • Positions (testifying + not testifying - duplicates = total)
          • PRO: 4 + 40 - 0 = 44
          • CON: 4 + 16 - 0 = 20
          • OTHER: 1 + 0 - 0 = 1
        • While the bill to establish a framework for a cannabis commodity commission was opened on Monday, no testimony had been heard prior to the continuation on Tuesday.
  • The biennial budgeting cycle was underway and legislative staff announced the operating budget bill text would be made publicly available early Thursday afternoon.
  • On Wednesday March 22nd, the Washington State Senate Law and Justice Committee (WA Senate LAW) planned to host an executive session on a technical clean up bill which included cannabis provisions.
    • HB 1066, “Making technical corrections and removing obsolete language from the Revised Code of Washington pursuant to RCW 1.08.025,” was scheduled to be moved by committee members.
    • According to the WA Senate LAW bill report, the legislation ‘replaces instances of the word "marijuana" with "cannabis," in accordance with 2022 legislation, in statutes related to criminal procedure, long-term care worker screening, and business and occupation tax.’