WA Senate LC - Committee Meeting
(January 30, 2023) - SB 5367 - Public Hearing

WA Senate LC - Committee Meeting (Jan 30, 2023) - SB 5367- Public Hearing - Takeaways

A bill adding restrictions on manufacturing and sales of hemp cannabinoid products was generally well received, but many speakers disagreed with the allowable THC limits.

Here are some observations from the Monday January 30th Washington State Senate Labor and Commerce Committee (WA Senate LC) Committee Meeting.

My top 4 takeaways:

  • The staff briefing on SB 5367, “Concerning the regulation of products containing THC,” began the second attempt by Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) leaders to define what cannabinoid products could be sold beyond adult-use cannabis stores since a market for unregulated hemp items had continued to thrive (audio - 2m, video).
    • In 2022, agency officials put forward legislation expanding their grant of authority to control cannabinoid products that “may be impairing” outside of the licensed cannabis system. However, the move proved controversial for some in the industry, and was unsuccessful. A cannabinoid rulemaking project was begun in May 2022, but by September the rulemaking effort was withdrawn as officials began preparing a revised request bill which was approved late in 2022.
    • At the hearing, Committee Counsel Matt Shepard-Koningsor briefed from the bill analysis, which indicated the legislation:
      • Differentiates between certain hemp and cannabis products intended to be consumed or absorbed inside the body based on tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] concentration.
      • Modifies the permitted activities of licensed cannabis producers and processors regarding the enhancement of cannabidiol (CBD) concentration in certain cannabis products.
      • Requires certain cannabis products to include a label indicating the amount of any synthetically-derived CBD in the product.
      • Prohibits any person from manufacturing, selling, or distributing cannabis products without a valid state-issued license.
    • Shepard-Koningsor reported that the statutory definition of THC would be “no longer limited to delta-9-THC, and includes any hydrogenated or structural isomer forms of THC.” He explained that the fiscal note projected operating expenditures for WSLCB of $440,396 in the 2023-25 biennium, and $318,564 in subsequent bienniums.
  • Representatives from state and local governments as well as substance use prevention organizations heralded the move to assert control over products with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), that could pose a danger to children and adult consumers.
    • 29 individuals registered positions in support of the bill (testifying, not testifying).
    • Sponsoring Senator June Robinson acknowledged lawmakers “tried, but didn’t get to the finish line” in passing a law the previous session, but officials were committed to protecting consumers and stopping youth access. In legislating, it was "always challenging to set a hard amount," and she expected people would encourage different amounts of THC be allowed. “But, I’m really hopeful that the approach that’s outlined, and the work that's been done” resulted in “a good product in the end,” she commented. Chair Karen Keiser offered the committee’s thanks for “good work in the interim” by Robinson and WSLCB leaders (audio - 1m, video).
    • Justin Nordhorn, WSLCB Director of Policy and External Affairs, recognized how “very complex” their 2022 effort at regulating cannabinoids had been, while HB 5367 “scaled that way back." They were continuing to hear reports of problems from local governments, mainly around access by minors, and he remarked that access was the crux of the proposal. Nordhorn told the committee the “threshold” in the bill covered all forms of THC, with a limit of one milligram (mg) per product serving, allowing up to 3 milligrams in any multi-serving package. It had been set based on existing scientific research into “what is the lowest observable negative impact” of THC, he added. The package total was below a “national standard” of 5mg of THC, Nordhorn remarked, and would permit “some opportunity for those full spectrum products.” He then shared his belief that licensing requirements for products “should dry up the online sales" and he expected agency officials were capable of getting a "pretty good handle" on in-state businesses selling hemp products at locations like convenience stores (audio - 3m, video).
    • Several supporters from public health organizations and the substance use prevention field spoke to the “huge concern” in stopping the sale of THC products outside of the adult-use market. They mentioned cases of "unexpected impairment, and even intoxication" in addition to health risks for youth, with some acknowledging the licensed system "works" at not selling products to those underage.
  • Representatives of the hemp sector testified against the move, alleging it would end “full spectrum” extraction of hemp through a low THC threshold, while a cannabis industry lobbyist felt the proposal didn’t go far enough.
  • Other cannabis industry members and a public health official explained their reasons for registering as ‘other’ on the legislation, offering disparate advice on what THC level, if any, to permit in hemp items.
    • Six individuals registered positions of ‘other’ on the bill (testifying, not testifying).
    • Vicki Christophersen, Washington CannaBusiness Association (WACA) Executive Director and Lobbyist (audio - 3m, video)
      • “The thresholds are too high from our perspective,” Christophersen testified, calling 3mg “a lot of THC." She agreed with public health and prevention testimony, feeling the public wanted THC in a “regulated system.” While offering support for the hemp industry, Christophersen said her organization wanted "none, no THC outside the regulated system."
    • Ezra Eickmeyer, Producers Northwest Founder (audio - 2m, video)
      • Wanting to keep quality hemp items available but limit THC products to the adult-use cannabis market, Eickmeyer found the legislation "gets very close," but the threshold for THC should be lowered and other cannabinoids should be required. These precautions would help make it less likely hemp manufacturers would make items with multiple servings of THC, he argued, stating technology existed to allow for “broad spectrum” hemp extract without THC.
    • Megan Moore, Washington State Public Health Association (WSPHA) Co-Chair of the Policy Committee (audio - 2m, video)
      • Moore saw the state at a “juncture,” since hemp “intrinsically has a small percentage of THC…how much do we agree is OK to be on the open market?” She called for a labeling requirement so products sold without age restrictions carried a warning that an item contained THC, informing youth “this product is not to be used by them.”
    • Nick Mosely, Confidence Analytics CEO (audio - 2m, video)
      • Mosley also backed the motives behind the legislation, but perceived difficulties “about implementation” which added to the workload of cannabinoid lab testing despite a “palpable lack of trust in the industry surrounding the validity of the test results" from some labs. He called for more enforcement from WSLCB over cannabis labs acting “fraudulently” as well as licensees inaccurately labeling cannabis items, troubled that the intentions of HB 5367 might “worsen the state’s existing exposure to mislabeled cannabis products.”

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