WA Legislature - Update
(March 28, 2023)

WA Legislature - Update (March 28, 2023) - Takeaways

Three of four lingering cannabis bills were recommended through the upcoming cutoff gateway as initial revisions to biennium operating budgets consumed legislator attention.

Here are some observations of the Washington State Legislature (WA Legislature) for Tuesday March 28th, the 79th day of the 2023 Regular Session.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • On Monday March 27th, the primary cannabis policy committees hosted executive sessions on three cannabis bills and recommended all three.
    • In the morning, the Washington State Senate Labor and Commerce Committee (WA Senate LC) recommended HB 1563 as written, which would enable equal protection from unlawful arrest for all authorized medical cannabis patients.
      • On March 21st, an initial executive session on the bill was skipped to enable further work but no amendments were subsequently published on the legislation. Republicans John Braun, Drew MacEwen, and Mark Schoesler did not recommend passage of the bill.
      • After registration of the standing committee report during a Senate floor session, the bill would be referred to the Washington State Senate Rules Committee (WA Senate RULE) for calendaring.
    • On Monday afternoon, the Washington State House Regulated Substances and Gaming Committee (WA House RSG) amended and recommended the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) subpoena authority bill and legislation to establish a framework for creating a cannabis commodity commission.
      • SB 5405 - “Modifying the liquor and cannabis board's subpoena authority.”
        • Representative Greg Cheney offered a bipartisan amendment to add process, training, and reporting requirements around a new WSLCB authority for cannabis investigations. The amendment was adopted and the legislation was unanimously recommended out of committee.
      • SB 5546 - “Establishing a Washington state cannabis commission.”
        • Representative Kristine Reeves offered a striking amendment and two amendments to the striker which were published on Monday morning. During the executive session, Reeves withdrew her first amendment to the striker—which would have increased required referendum participation rates from 40% to 60% of producers and producer/processors---and the second was adopted. The revisions altered the purpose of the cannabis commission in multiple ways and made the legislation more of a vehicle for furthering efforts towards social equity in the cannabis sector.
        • In remarks, legislators called out the complexity of the bill and Republican committee members seemed incensed that the amendment to increase required participation wasn’t adopted. The bill was narrowly recommended out of committee along a strict party line vote, 6-5.
  • Also on Monday, legislative staff published the House version of the biennium operating budget ahead of its public hearing in the afternoon while senators were processing 132 amendments to their version.
    • HB 1140 - “Making 2023-2025 fiscal biennium operating appropriations.”
    • SB 5187 - “Making 2023-2025 fiscal biennium operating appropriations.”
    • A presumed goal of both fiscal committees would be to complete their initial work on their respective versions of the biennium operating budget legislation ahead of the opposite house policy committee cutoff on Wednesday March 29th. Towards that end, the WA House APP was scheduled to host an executive session on HB 1140 on Wednesday. In the latter half of the week, those committees would turn their attention to the fiscal dimensions of remaining policy bills ahead of the opposite house fiscal committee cutoff on Tuesday April 4th.
  • On Tuesday March 28th, senators planned to look ahead to interim work and representatives would consider moving one last cannabis bill authorizing local control of some physical aspects of retail signage through the looming cutoff gateway.
    • WA Senate LC members completed their policy work and cancelled their Tuesday meeting. But as they wrapped up on Monday, Chair Karen Keiser announced their intention to host an “informal meeting” with committee staff starting at 11am on Tuesday to discuss issues of interest during the interim following the regular session. At publication time, TVW was not planning to broadcast that discussion.
    • Members of the Washington State Senate Rules Committee (WA Senate RULE) planned to convene at the rostrum following the Tuesday pro forma session to signify their assent to pull two packages of bills to the consent and floor calendars.
    • And in the late afternoon, WA House RSG members would meet for potentially the last time during the 2023 regular session to consider passage of one last cannabis bill.
      • SB 5363 - “Concerning cannabis retailer advertising.”
        • At publication time, there were no published amendments on the legislation.