OmniCannabis II: The amending

omnicannabis2

by Bailey Hirschburg

This is a follow up to an earlier story reported by MJNewsNetwork: OMNICANNABIS: The WA State Senate Made Behemoth Pot Legislation, And It May Be Too Big To Fail

In the end, my observation in the first omnicannabis article was omniscient, “in rushing to remove the band-aid from this wound, Washington Senators sacrificed transparency and quality for quantity and speed. ” And this is just what happened.

Don’t get me wrong, SB 5131, the omnicannabis bill currently awaiting the signature of Governor Jay Inslee, has some good, bad, and ugly in it. If he doesn’t sign or veto it by May 16th it becomes law.

Gov. Jay Inslee can also veto specific sections, but there’s been no word on what, if any, parts he opposes. In a bill containing consulting contracts & financial disclosures, seed/clone sales to patients by producers, tribal and port notification, Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) staff immunity, an organic-equivalent certification for products, gifting/sharing of cannabis, hemp and recreational regulations, required personal cultivation study, and advertising restrictions, there is a lot Inslee could put on the chopping block. But the bill is too big to fail; a veto will create more problems for the already extended legislative session.

With dramatic amendments on the floor of the state house banning marijuana retailer billboards in 2018, expanding a grace period for inactive licenses, and adding language for licensing and rules for industrial hemp use in marijuana products or for consumption, 5131 was more divisive than its unanimous adoption in the state senate. The billboard amendment, sponsored by Rep. Joyce McDonald, passed narrowly. The senate then decided to take the bill to a conference committee where three senators and three representatives created a final compromise amendment for their chambers to vote on.

The compromise removed McDonald’s billboard ban amendment, and added a report on personal cannabis cultivation by the LCB to the legislature by the end of the year, focusing on the policies compliance with the federal Cole memo on marijuana legalization.

Back to my, “sacrificed transparency and quality for quantity and speed” comment. Between house amendments and the conference committee, a loophole emerged in cannabis seed/clone sale language. One sentence saying patients registered in the state database could buy both seeds/clones, and the following sentence saying qualifying (but unregistered) patients could buy seeds.

Cannabis patient/VIPER PAC lobbyist John Novak brought the discrepancy to Sen. Ann Rivers’ staffs attention, who promptly submitted a bill in the special session, SB 5933, making sure authorized patients cannot buy seeds. The bill says it’s “necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, or support of the state government and its existing public institutions,” how this topic meets any definition of that is unclear.

LCB staffer James Paribello testified that the board could likely set rules with or without 5933’s passage. Does this mean banning unregistered patients buying seeds through a rules process, or adapting those rules to allow both registered and unregister to buy seeds?

In my first article I pointed to River’s description of 5131 being like the senate removing a band aide all at once. SB 5933 is essentially picking at the scab. I told the Senate Healthcare committee (and Sen. Rivers) just that during 5933’s public hearing, urging them not to pass this restrictive effort to coerce participation in a database patients aren’t interested in, and empower black market for seed sale.

The committee moved promptly on 5933 from public hearing to executive session (usually they’re separate to collect further testimony or address questions) and voted to pass it, but not without a strong dissent from Senate Majority Whip Maureen Walsh, who openly questioned the necessity of the bill. Walsh, and Sen. Steve O’Ban voted against it, with Sen. Barbara Bailey voting without recommendation, a type of abstention.

Whatever Gov. Inslee’s decision, SB 5131 represents a turning point in Washington marijuana laws. It has a broad scope, compromises from most players, and defies a simple characterization as being a good or bad bill. Its just like any other issues in that way. But aside from 5131’s components, it’s size is a cautionary tale for those who hope to make good laws on the fly or en masse.

They say laws are like sausages because the public doesn’t want to watch them made. That may be, but also like sausages, bite off too much and you’ll likely to choke.

You can read the bill as delivered to Gov. Inslee here:

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