OmniCannabis II: The amending

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:

Inslee Signs Recreational Marijuana Reform Bill

WASHINGTON:  Washington state’s recreational marijuana law has a new tax structure under a measure signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jay Inslee.

The new law eliminates the current three-tier tax structure and replaces it with a single excise tax of 37 percent at the point of sale – a change sought by the legal-pot industry. To encourage more cities and counties to allow marijuana businesses, the bill directs the state to share pot revenue with jurisdictions that do so. It also allows them to adopt more flexible zoning for where pot grows and stores can be located.

The passage of Initiative 502 in 2012 allowed the sale of marijuana to adults for recreational use at licensed stores, which started opening last year. Earlier this year, the Legislature passed and Inslee signed into law a measure that regulates the state’s medical marijuana system and reconciles the two markets.

The tax structure change is significant for marijuana businesses. Previously, pot shops charged their customers 25 percent as required so they could pass that money along to the state. But because of the way the law was written, they had to pay federal income tax on that money they collected from the customer, even though it didn’t go toward their bottom lines.

Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Bill; Deal On Recreational Pot Is Elusive

WASHINGTON: Gov. Jay Inslee signed medical-marijuana regulations Friday, perhaps the most significant lawmaking in the Legislature’s 103 days of work.

But agreement on collection and spending of marijuana taxes eluded legislators at they moved toward adjournment, and will probably have to wait for the special session that begins next week.

A proposal under consideration would direct proceeds from pot taxes to an array of state programs and share a sliver with cities and counties that have licensed sellers. But local governments willing to forgo the money would be under no obligation to allow the businesses.

WA Gov Inslee To Sign Bill Changing Medical Marijuana Rules

WASHINGTON: Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to sign into law an overhaul of Washington’s medical marijuana market that seeks to eliminate unregulated dispensary sales now that the state’s recreational market is in place.

Among the provisions of the measure Inslee was to sign Friday afternoon is the creation of a voluntary database of patients. Unregistered patients wouldn’t be allowed to possess the same amounts of marijuana or enjoy similar tax breaks that registered patients would.

The passage of Initiative 502 in 2012 allowed the sale of marijuana to adults for recreational use. Recreational businesses have complained that they’re being squeezed by medical dispensaries that have proliferated in many parts of the state.

Let The Real Work Of Reconciling Medical And Recreational Pot In Tacoma Begin

WASHINGTON:  Tacoma City Council members got what they wanted on Tuesday.

Now the question is: What next?

When the state Senate and House signed off on legislation that – pending Gov. Jay Inslee’s expected signature – will rein in Washington’s wild west medical marijuana market this week, it was not just a long time coming. It also was a redeeming moment for lawmakers.

The move, which cities like Tacoma have long advocated, is designed to shutter rogue unlicensed dispensaries and bring all legal pot sales under the purview of the Initiative 502-created recreational market by July 2016.

 

2 Tapped To Fill Washington Liquor Board Vacancies

WASHINGTON: Gov. Jay Inslee nominated a former Kitsap County prosecutor and a veteran state employee Wednesday to the three-member board that oversees the state’s liquor and marijuana industries.

Russ Hauge, a Democrat, was the longest-serving elected prosecutor in Kitsap County’s history. He was in office two decades before he was narrowly unseated by Republican Tina Robinson in November.

The other nominee is Jane Rushford, who will serve as board chairwoman. She has held various positions in state government in the past 30 years. She is the former deputy director of the Department of Enterprise Services, and previously served as a policy adviser to the Department of Natural Resources and on the Democratic staff in the House of Representatives.

Hauge and Rushford are being named to posts being vacated by Liquor Control Board members Sharon Foster and Chris Marr, who helped oversee the launch of the state’s legal marijuana industry.

The nominees face confirmation in the state Senate, but they can start work on their six-year terms before they’re confirmed.

 

Washington Governor Lays Down Marijuana Law: No Cartoons On Sales Packages

WASHINGTON:  Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee said Washingtonians may be allowed to smoke marijuana for recreational use, but that drug sales and marketing packaging put together under his watch won’t be allowed to carry cartoon images, or hit the store shelves without some sort of tamper-proof device to keep out the kids.

“We’re not going to allow cartoons, we’re not going to allow toys” to be sold as a gimmick with the marijuana products, Mr. Inslee said at a news conference to discuss how the state is going to keep legalize pot out of the hands of the younger-than-21 crowd, Raw Story reported.

He also said the state is going to implement strict rules about active ingredient labels on the marijuana packages and require sales people to submit to state-regulated lab tests to ensure product quality.

The first recreational pot sales licenses are set to be issued by the state’s Liquor Control Board on July 7.

Seattle City Council To Gov. Inslee: Appropriately Regulate Medical Pot

WASHINGTON: On Monday the Seattle City Council sent a letter addressed to Gov. Jay Inslee, state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles and state Rep. Roger Goodman asking for “further action from the State to appropriately regulate medical cannabis.” The letter was signed by all nine members of the Council along with City Attorney Pete Holmes. [Read more…]

Inslee, Ferguson Tell Congress To Fix Banking Rules So Legal Marijuana Can Work

WASHINGTON: Governor Jay Inslee and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson want Congress to fix the banking rules or (at least) give banks confidence that they can take money from state-licensed marijuana businesses without fear of federal prosecution. [Read more…]