Washington State Legislature – Cannabis Bill Activity
(March 28 – April 2, 2019)

Here are some observations of cannabis bills still moving in the Washington State Legislature.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • This week, the Senate Law and Justice Committee hosted a public hearing and executive session for HB 1792, “Concerning criminal penalties applicable to licensed marijuana retailers and employees of marijuana retail outlets.”
    • See details on the bill’s House policy committee executive session. HB 1792 was passed by the full House on March 7th without amendments. In the Senate, the bill was initially referred to the Labor and Commerce Committee which passed the bill on to the Law and Justice Committee.
    • On Monday April 1st, the Senate Law and Justice Committee hosted a public hearing on the bill.
      • Shani Bauer, Senior Staff Counsel, outlined the legislation (audio – 2m, video); from the Senate Bill Report:
        • Creates a gross misdemeanor crime applicable when an employee of a marijuana retail outlet sells marijuana products to a person under age twenty-one in the course of their employment.
        • Provides that an employee of a marijuana retailer may still be prosecuted under applicable felony provisions of the Controlled Substances Act in certain circumstances, including when the employee makes the sale to the underage person outside the course of the person’s employment.
        • Creates a misdemeanor crime applicable when a marijuana retailer or employee of the retailer allows a person under the age of twenty-one to enter or remain on the premises of the retail outlet, unless otherwise authorized in law.
      • Brooke Davies, representing the Washington CannaBusiness Association (WACA), said the bill “seeks to align the penalties of the [alcohol and cannabis] industries.” She noted the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) documented a higher rate of compliance when it tested for underage sales in cannabis retail stores versus tobacco or alcohol establishments. Davies highlighted a carve out which would maintain the possibility of a felony charge for budtenders who could be shown to have knowingly sold cannabis to persons under 21. Davies said she was aware of budtenders with otherwise clean records who faced felony charges due to forgetting to check or misreading a customer ID (audio – 3m, video).
        • Ranking Member Mike Padden asserted employees charged were not doing their job. He continued, “we have a significant problem in my district. I have three retail shops right on the Idaho border.” Padden said the shops were approved by WSLCB over objections from the community as well as Idaho and Washington law enforcement. He claimed he was “almost certain” Idaho residents buying cannabis products in Washington stores took the products back across the border and may sell them in Idaho. Davies did not directly say sales restrictions by customer origin were not part of the bill but reminded Padden that intentional sales to youth remained a felony. And while “occasionally mistakes do happen,” budtenders faced job loss and industry blacklisting already and shouldn’t face felony charges as well. Padden asked how many people had been charged with this offense. Davies said she knew of three cases and promised to follow up (audio – 4m, video).
        • Senator Jesse Salomon asked if charges were occurring as a result of WSLCB compliance checks. Davies answered that her understanding was WSLCB enforcement officers wrote up violations and left it to city attorneys or county prosecutors to decide whether to pursue charges. “So, if you’re in Seattle, or an area like that typically, they don’t seek further enforcement,” she said, but noted an eastern Washington prosecutor had recently filed charges in a case. Salomon asked if the prosecutor had to show that a budtender didn’t check ID, and Davies was uncertain but thought it could be prosecuted either way.
      • Samantha Grad, the Political and Legislative Organizer for UFCW 21 testified in “strong support.” She said, “we continue to disproportionately punish people in this industry” despite the plant’s legal status in the state. She felt HB 1792 created “a middle road that allows for accountability when mistakes are made” and that treating it like alcohol or tobacco removed a “crippling fear” budtenders confronted (audio – 1m, video).
    • On Tuesday April 2nd, the Senate Law and Justice Committee considered changing the bill during executive session.
      • Bauer briefed committee members on amendment 1792 AMS LAW S3470.1 from Senator Padden (audio – 2m, video):
        • Makes it a felony for an employee of a retail outlet located in any county of the state that borders Idaho to sell marijuana to an unauthorized person under the age of 21.
        • Committee Chair Jamie Pedersen asked if there was a “scienter requirement” or if the amendment maintained “strict liability.” Bauer answered “it returns it to the felony provisions, there’s certain exceptions when they would be excepted from [Controlled Substances Act (CSA)] and when the gross misdemeanor would apply” but that there wasn’t a scienter requirement.
      • Padden claimed his amendment was “unique to counties on the Idaho border” and that his district’s retailers were “chasing the [Idaho] customers.” “We know,” he said. Padden continued, “I’m sure everybody here realizes that marijuana is many times consumed in Idaho illegally, and I’m sure sold in Idaho. And the amount of business is tremendous that these three shops are doing, they’re making a lot of money.” Padden concluded the “unique situation where it’s located” justified “maintaining current law for that area” (audio – 3m, video).
      • Vice Chair Manka Dhingra said “I understand the problem,” but had “constitutional concerns” over differing penalties. She noted the bill language made no mention of out-of-state sales. Padden admitted “you may have a point” and asked Dhingra to consider language his staff was crafting for a floor amendment.
      • Following a voice vote, the amendment was not adopted.
      • The unchanged bill was granted a “do pass” recommendation by voice vote and referred to the Senate Rules Committee.
  • On Thursday March 28th, the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee hosted an executive session for HB 1794, “Concerning agreements between licensed marijuana businesses and other people and businesses, including royalty and licensing agreements relating to the use of intellectual property.”
  • On Thursday March 28th, the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee hosted an executive session for HB 2052, “Clarifying marijuana product testing by revising provisions concerning marijuana testing laboratory accreditation and establishing a cannabis science task force.”
    • See details on the bill’s House policy committee public hearing and executive session, and the House fiscal committee public hearing and executive session. HB 2052 was passed by the full House on March 6th without amendments. On March 19th, the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee hosted a public hearing for the bill.
    • Rogers briefed on 2052 AMS LBRC S3091.2, a striking amendment from Committee Chair Karen Keiser, which proposed six substantive changes to the bill (audio – 2m, video):
      • (1) Requires that the state marijuana product testing laboratory accreditation program initial development costs must be fully paid from the dedicated marijuana account.
      • (2) Changes the date of the transfer of the accreditation program to the Department of Ecology to July 1, 2024.
      • (3) Limits the initial scope of the Cannabis Science Task Force to pesticides in plants for laboratory quality standards for the 7/1/20 report to legislature.
      • (4) Requires the Cannabis Science Task Force to recommend regulatory changes each agency should make to implement the pesticide lab quality standards. The recommendations are included in the 7/1/20 report to legislature.
      • (5) Directs the Cannabis Science Task Force to submit a report to the legislature by 12/1/21 on the recommendations for laboratory quality standards for heavy metals and potency, at a minimum.
      • (6) Allows the Liquor and Cannabis Board to initiate rule making to address the findings and recommendations in the task force reports, as the Department of Ecology does not take over accreditation until 2024.
    • Keiser told members HB 2052 was “incredibly important to public health” and said legislators had worked with stakeholders to find an agreed-upon process for pesticide and eventually heavy metals testing of cannabis products. She urged passage to “help our confidence and our public health.” Ranking Member Curtis King seconded Keiser’s views (audio – 2m, video).
    • The bill was passed by unanimous voice vote and referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

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