WA NORML 2017 State Of The Session Report (Part 2)

What we lobbied for, What we got, and Will we be able to do it again?

By Bailey Hirschburg

WASHINGTON: For the first time Washington NORML had a regular lobbyist in Olympia this year. The truth is NORML has almost always been staffed by volunteer activists. That’s what I was, at a NORML chapter in Missouri, interning for NORML’s national office in Washington DC, and later as head of NORML’s Thurston County chapter. The reward I got from it was doing the right thing, great stories, and lifelong friends. (Oh, as an intern NORML reimbursed subway fare.)

I was shocked when Kevin Oliver, the head of Washington NORML, said he’d raised some money to hire a lobbyist. But the professional he had in mind wanted it all, and didn’t believe the legislature would pass home growing of cannabis by adults, so wasn’t going to try. I promised to do it for much less, and give a damn about the things recreational consumers care about because I was one. I’ve lobbied as a citizen, but doing this as a job was another level.

Lobbying part time along with a second job I got up close and personal with a lot of bills. What did I do, and what changed? My focus this session broke down into five areas:

  • Securing fair permitting for on-site cannabis use by for adults 21 and older. A draft bill to allow special permits for marijuana consumption events was drafted and shopped around to various members. Despite bipartisan interest failed to find a primary sponsor in time. However, a previous bill to allow cigar bars may be adapted to include marijuana on-site consumption. This leaves two avenues for social use, at a time that the policy is expanding among legal cannabis states.
  • Securing cannabis homegrow protections and establishing a system of seed/clone sale for adults 21 and older. Two bills were heard this session to legalize personal cultivation, HB 1092 & 1212. HB 1212 passed unanimously out of Commerce & Gaming, and through the Rules review to the Finance committee, the farthest any such bill has progressed in the state. I searched for a sponsor for a draft bill to allow seed/clone sales to adults, making the law continent on personal cultivation being enacted this year. Apathy in the state senate slowed progress along with lingering questions about enforcement needs and federal intervention. In SB5131, the LCB has been mandated to produce a report on personal cultivation for the legislature by December. Beyond submitting information and rallying stakeholders, WA NORML will be looking for the best ways to raise consumer influence in this report, without which, it’s recommendations may not be trustworthy.
  • Promote taxation/regulatory reforms that will benefit adult cannabis consumers. With the passage of an organic-like certification for cannabis products, legalized sharing/gifting of cannabis, expanded hemp access and use in consumer products, and regulation of infused edible production that is closer to other food industries, there are several ways in which the legal consumer will be better off with the changes in this session. Particularly the sharing/gifting of cannabis, while not a source of many arrests, remained a blindspot and common complaint against our legal framework.
  • Promote reforms that will increase access and security in the sale of medically affordable compliant cannabis to patients/caregivers.  Patient access to legal clones/seeds will be larger due to laws passed this year. Involving a rules process takes time, new laws will bring greater availability and stability to patients and caregivers producing their own medicine. Similarly to regular consumers, patients will also benefit from the organic-like certification, as recreational plant testing is often deemed inadequate for patient needs. Maddie’s Law, which would assist patient-students medicating on school property passed the house with broad support, and initially had senate momentum, but senate leadership halted progress and kept the bill from a floor vote. However, it’s simple change and broad popularity leave it well positioned to be addressed in the future, particularly as the U.S. Congress has maintained a ban on DEA interference in state-legal medical programs.
  • Working to improve legislation where possible and oppose when necessary. An unfortunate reality is that some of the biggest victories this year were stopping damaging bills or amendments. In other cases objections were ignored. Nonetheless, opposition to billboard bans, increased public consumption penalties, increased packaging/concentrate penalties, banning of bitcoin, and retail bans in Alcohol Impact Areas helped keep these issues from advancing. Other areas like out-of-state financial stake, or increased licensee fees were opposed but amended into other legislation. While not perfect, success in stopping bad legislation is crucial to stemming any prohibition resurgence.

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Most of my efforts were on HB1212, HB1060, ESSB5131, and searching for sponsors for two draft bills on seed sale and social use permitting. I also testified, signed in with a position available to answer questions at legislative hearings, submitted written materials, or spoke with lawmakers about the following bills:

Medical Cannabis Bills- 

Pro: HB1098, HB1094, HB1060/SB5290, HB2021 Con: SB5933

Recreational Cannabis Bill-

Pro: HB1092, HB1099, HB1212, HB1124, HB1461/SB5323, HB1462 (enacted)/SB5324 Con: HB1416, HB1065, HB1151, SB5282 Other: HB1250 (enacted)

Hemp Bills-

Pro: HB1692 Other: HB2064 (enacted)

Research/Misc. Bills-

Pro: HB1895 Other: SB5131 (enacted)

Changes from Enacted bills- 

HB2064- Removing industrial hemp from the scope of the uniform controlled substances act.

Removing hemp from Washington’s CSA is positive in that it makes an ecologically and industrially beneficial plant available. However it’s lack of rules damage long term viability of the industry and outdoor cannabis grows with the risk of cross-pollination, absence of certified seed programs, and absent research component as required by Sec. 7606 of the federal Farm Bill. Amendments in SB5131, and recent rules proposed by the Washington State Dept. of Agriculture, should establish some hemp licensing, research parameters, and use in marijuana products but a seed certification program still depends on some federal cooperation.

HB1250- Authorizing retail marijuana outlets to give a free lockable drug box to adults age twenty-one years and over and to qualifying patients age eighteen years and over subject to restrictions.

By updating RCW 69.50.357, this bill allows retailers to “donate the lockable boxes and provide the related literature to any person eligible to purchase marijuana products” that they receive from a third party entity. Nothing in the law requires person eligible to buy anything in order to receive a lockbox and literature, and retailers are allowed to sell lockboxes (assuming they weren’t donated to the retailer) as well as distribute lockboxes that have been donated. I lobbied for the term “upon request” to be added so that consumers who actively want to store cannabis in lockboxes will get them versus the first customer offered a free item.

HB1462- Adding authority to the department of agriculture to regulate sanitary processing of marijuana-infused edibles.

This bill creates an edible endorsement for processors and greater authority for the Dept. of Agriculture to regulate infused edibles similar to that agencies other food handling regulation. While edible production was within the scope of licensed processors with approved facilities, those licensees will now need this endorsement with a separate application/renewal process all edible sales. This will involve Dept. of Agriculture adopting rules specifically for marijuana edibles, with an understanding “Such rules must be written and interpreted to be consistent with rules adopted by the board [LCB] and the department of health.” By April 1st, 2018 rules will regulate edibles similar to other food handling licenses with some exceptions including:

  • issuance of the endorsement in lieu of a food processing license through the Dept. of Ag. business licensing system;
  • separate penalty schedule to operate in addition to the penalty schedule of the LCB;
  • must be obtained by any licensee that “processes, packages, or makes marijuana-infused edibles;”
  • endorsement renewal will coincide with marijuana processors license renewal, but must already hold processors license before initial issuance.
  • The licensee needs a separate endorsement for each location, and no facility can be used to process non-marijuana infused foods except “solely for tasting samples or internal product testing.”

SB5131- Addressing provisions concerning marijuana with respect to research licenses, local authority notifications, the retail licensing application process, processor wholesale events, and jurisdictional requirements.

Just signed into law by Gov. Inslee. I’ve written extensively on this bill for MJNewsNetwork, and have described it as “omnicannabis” because it is multiple bills addressing a wide variety of issues. Here’s a brief overview of what it does:

-Medical Garden Access: Allows licensed marijuana producers to sell immature cannabis plants, clones, and seeds to qualifying patients who enter the state’s medical marijuana database. A close reading of Sec. 11 suggests authorized but unregistered patients may be able to buy seeds, this may be allowed or banned by LCB rules process.

   -Homegrow Report: The LCB must examine the viability of allowing recreational users to grow their own marijuana, with the enforcement priorities outlined in the Cole Memo as the central guidelines for their recommendation.

-Retail License Limit: A retailer or individual “with a financial or other ownership interest in” a retail license can own up to five retail licenses.

-Forfeiting Licenses: Require the LCB forfeit retail licenses which have been issued but are not operational and open to the public unless the delay is due to circumstances beyond the licensee’s control, for example if the licensee has been unable to open because of a local moratorium, ban, or because zoning, licensing or other regulatory measures prevent it from opening.

-Gifting Marijuana: Adults can deliver marijuana each other in half the legal possession amounts so long as the pot is offered as a gift without financial remuneration so long as the marijuana shared is either in it’s original packaging, or not in public view.

-Tribal Oversight: The LCB must get approval from a federally recognized Indian Tribe prior to granting a license on tribal land.

-Licensing Contracts & Disclosure: Allow a licensees to enter into agreements or consulting contracts “with any individual, partnership, employee cooperative, association, nonprofit corporation, or corporation” for goods or services, trademarks, trade secrets or proprietary information. The agreement must be disclosed to the LCB, but various information and financial considerations are exempt from the state’s Public Disclosure Act.

-Organic-Equivalent Pot: The LCB is instructed to adopt regulations for marijuana similar to products federally certified as organic. The LCB will implement regulations for marijuana to be grown similar to organic products. These products will have a uniform title and labeling.

-Processing Hemp: The LCB must study the viability of letting licensed processors process industrial hemp. This may lead to legislation to allow processors to purchase plant material from farmers licensed to grow hemp.

-Advertising: Significant changes focused on advertising to kids. Prohibits licensees from taking “any action directly or indirectly to target youth in the advertising, promotion, or marketing of marijuana and marijuana products, or take any action the primary purpose of which is to initiate, maintain, or increase the incidence of youth use of marijuana or marijuana products.” This includes prohibiting toys, movie/cartoon characters, or images that would pique underage interest in pot. It also bans using commercial mascots, as defined to mean “a live human being, animal, or mechanical device used for attracting the attention of motorists and passersby so as to make them aware of marijuana products or the presence of a marijuana business.” This covers staff in costume, inflatable tube displays, or sign spinners. Cities and counties can further restrict advertising, but must enforce extra limits themselves.

  -Billboards: A marijuana retailer may now only use a billboard to identify the name or nature of the business and directions to its location. Outdoor signs could not contain depictions of marijuana plants, products, or images that appeal to children. Outdoor advertising would be prohibited in “arenas, stadiums, shopping malls, fairs that receive state allocations, farmers markets, and video game arcades.” An exception allows outdoor advertising at adult-only events.

As you see, I got a lot done, and I had help and support, but faced off with a lot of professional lobbyists whose careers or relationships in Olympia go a long way. There are bad lobbyists and corrupt special interests. But typically, with them comes big money and disproportionate influence. I talked with a woman earlier this year who said she wouldn’t trust any marijuana activist that got paid to lobby. I told her I understood, then shook her hand and told her I hoped she had just met one she could trust. I hope being open and clear about what I did, didn’t do, or hoped to do offers a small gesture that I mean well, even if I’m not the slickest salesman ever. Cannabis consumers care about fair influence after generations of laws being made ABOUT them but not WITH them.

Are there other lobbyists publicize the oversight of themselves? Maybe, but I’ve never met any who did. In my first article about my lobbying here at MJNewsNetwork, I explained that you can find my lobbyist reporting to the state’s Public Disclosure Commission here: 

I’m honored and humbled that any group would pay me to lobby for better pot laws. I dream of doing that more often than gaining online fame. But between my wife and me, we have a full time job, three part time jobs, and one car to get us to them. My payment from Washington NORML is a matter of record, and has been very generous, but it’s not making me rich.

That’s fine, my getting rich is not the point. Our fight is far from over, but the battlefield is different, and organizing protests or petitions is costlier and won’t engage a voting public that largely finds pot accessible and available. Traditional lobbying carries risks, no doubt, and it’s not the same as flipping off the status quo for it’s many oppressive practices. But supporting consumer lobbying is going to get more wins in legal states than future statewide ballot efforts. The point is that the marijuana community should work together and support traditional lobbying in places with legal pot. It’s not as exciting or visible, but it’s crucial.

The problem with gains is they have to be maintained. I’ll be speaking up for home grow, or any other legislation that makes sense next year, no matter what. I don’t know if WA NORML will have support to pay me, or anyone, to lobby. I’ll do what I can, but don’t know what time I’ll have left to do it. This has always been the struggle of volunteer activists, but these are gains worth maintaining, hopefully cannabis consumers will support WA NORML the way WA NORML has supported them (and me).

WA NORML 2017 State Of The Session Report

By Bailey Hirschburg

While the special session called by Gov. Jay Inslee wrapped up on July 20th, the majority of Washington NORML’s lobby work was completed in early May. The best summary of our WA NORML’s legislative impact and agenda process is that it was appropriately ambitious. While several goals, personal cultivation for adults and social use, remain unaddressed, valuable progress towards consumer safety, patient access, industrial hemp, and marijuana research was achieved. Changes for licensees have varied from useful to burdensome, but overall the state legislature is invested in maintaining legal access and possession for adults.

As an advocacy group, WA NORML is gaining greater standing and familiarity, with legislators who have begun recommending us to constituents with questions about cannabis issues, to legislators speaking frankly about their own cannabis use or impressions of their districts, or with our position on the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB)’s Cannabis Advisory Council. Today, other groups have represented the medical patient or licensee community longer, but WA NORML has grown to be the most experienced recreational consumer lobby in the state.

Beyond the direct lobbying of the state legislature on nearly two dozen bills, throughout the session I represented WA NORML at events, organized a lobby day and reception, engaged with media coverage, wrote editorial articles and legislative updates to Exec. Director Kevin Oliver and board members, developed familiarity/relationships with specific lawmakers, staff, fellow lobbying groups, and engaged with LCB enforcement, legislative, and rules staff on current practices and active legislation. There are also clear ways to improve PAC effectiveness with a set meeting schedule or issue-focused workgroups.

The future of legal cannabis in Washington is secure. State agencies and key officials are committed to state legal access and economic footprint. The voices for prohibition or criminalization of personal use in Olympia are few and isolated. There is lawmakers receptiveness to every key issue we’ve addressed. Some, like legal sharing/gifting of cannabis had enough support to move this year. Other issues, like access for student-patients, and personal cultivation moved some distance, while social use legislation didn’t find a sponsor in time.

However, sharing/gifting and removal of industrial hemp from the controlled substances act are positive changes that represent “low hanging buds” of positive reforms. Personal cultivation and social use face stronger opposition. Both are divisive within law enforcement and even the legal marijuana industry. Our developing mission to include small, local marijuana business is gradually being incorporated as we develop a portfolio of relevant lobby issues.

Nonetheless, WA NORML is well positioned to speak more forcefully for consumers going forward. Through a seat on the Cannabis Advisory Council organized by the LCB, and through rallying stakeholder testimony and shaping a public narrative as the LCB’s personal cultivation report progresses. Finally, we’re identifying lawmakers to fundraise for or make direct contributions to in the upcoming election cycle. In short, we’re growing in all the ways a successful lobbying operation should.

There is always ways to learn and improve. The two significant ones are to get an earlier start scheduling our events and anticipating legislation’s trajectory.

As I was hired the first day of this year’s session and spent some time identifying who to meet with, only to find their calendar full, or significant legislation already introduced. Scheduling also impacted our lobbying day, which drew a large crowd and allowed us to press for action on a variety of issues, but was past a cutoff for new bills to be introduced, and had lawmakers working late and largely unable to attend our evening reception.

A better posture towards initial scheduling will further our influence on bills. And such a schedule should take into account not only legislation’s current position but who or what bodies it will need to clear in the following days and weeks. Because next year’s legislative session is short, the schedule for progress is similarly shortened. While the lobby proposal budgeted for 18 hours a week, the future may necessitate more hours each week for a shorter session.

These changes allow direct lobbying efforts to focus on priority issues. Some board members have already contributed in the ways described, but this will have greater impact as it becomes routine.

On a personal note, I’d like to thank you all for your support and trust in this project. I’m not a big cannabis social media personality. I don’t think we need more of them as badly as we need more regular lobbyists, in more statehouses, speaking up for more consumers. The word revolution is thrown around a lot in politics. That said, WA NORML’s lobby efforts are a revolution that blooms from NORML’s tradition of citizen activism to include regular consumer lobby efforts.

The cannabis consumer has lots of reasons not to speak up. I work a second job, and overheard one coworker recently tell another “Sure, I smoke pot, but I’m not going to, like, talk about it.” I know exactly why they were hesitating, because I have too. There are many reasons not to speak up. But we deserve to be heard in government, even if speaking entails risk. Thanks to WA NORML, you have given all consumers, and me, a louder voice than ever in the pot politics of Evergreen State. I’m humbled, and simultaneously certain better changes can be achieved.

WSLCB NOTICE OF RULE MAKING – Pre-proposal – #17-11

WASHINGTON: The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board would like your input on the attached proposed rule changes (CR-102) to amend rules in Chapter 314-55 WAC related to Marijuana Producers Licenses and Tiers, and related rules.

This notice can be found at lcb.wa.gov/laws/laws-and-rules under Proposed Rules.

The Liquor and Cannabis Board encourages you to give input on this rulemaking.  Following the comment period the board will hold a public hearing before the rule changes may be adopted.

Public Comment

Please forward your comments to the Liquor and Cannabis Board by mail, e-mail, or fax by July 12, 2017.

By mail:      Rules Coordinator                By e-mail:             By fax:

Liquor and Cannabis Board   rules@lcb.wa.gov   360-664-9689

P.O. Box 43080

Olympia, WA  98504-3080

Public          July 12, 2017

Hearing:       10:00 a.m.

                    Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board – Board Room

3000 Pacific Ave. S.E, Olympia, WA

 

 

Trump, Lamestream Media & Cannabis

Donald Trump really hasn’t said much about marijuana as president-elect/president. His administration meanders from strong to modest opposition, depending on who’s talking. This is because cable news is in a nebulous area where media personalities, the president’s staff, channel advertisers, and occasionally everyday people brief Trump from the comfort of his TV. Cannabis, like everything else, is hostage to the news cycle.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer first said the administration was looking at “greater enforcement.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and top Justice Dept. advisor, Steven Cook, have a dim view of all criminal justice reforms from the Obama years. They’ve had recent harsh words for legal pot, yet Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper recently described a meeting with Sessions where the AG stressed the administration’s other priorities over enforcement against legal pot.  “Well you haven’t seen us cracking down, have you?” Sessions reportedly told the governor.

Still, a Justice Dept. review of the non-legally-binding Cole memo, which outlined expectations of state legalization in 2013, is said to be underway. Trump’s early executive order on crime was mostly a call to review and enforce laws against drug trafficking and criminal organizations, with no new authority or money to fight pot.

As a candidate Trump said he was 100% supportive of medical cannabis, as president that support has shown itself to barely be barely 50% in maintaining a status quo with HHS Secretary Tom Price, formerly a not-totally-anti-medical-cannabis congressman from Georgia and the continuation of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer budget amendment which blocks DEA spending on state-compliant medical cannabis laws until September. And Trump’s Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives agency has expanded Form 4473 for gun sales to make clear that no legal marijuana consumers, medical or otherwise, has 2nd amendment rights.

Then, Trump’s White House proposed to gut the ONDCP, or drug czar’s office, budget by over 90% while establishing an special commission to examine the opioid epidemic headed by New Jersey’s “smoke ‘em while you got ‘em” Gov. Chris Christie, perhaps the most specifically anti-pot member of the Trump team, yet also the farthest from controlling that federal weed policy. What does all of this mean?

President Trump listens to these men, and others, on marijuana policy. However, their views on weed played little role in their ascendence in his government as opposed to their outright loyalty and deference to Trump himself. He doesn’t keep them around because he agrees with their extremist views on pot. But he listens to one advisor above all else: Cable news. As much as he may say he hates it, mainstream media is the central issue brief for America’s president, academics and political research filling in the rest (probably). Evidence abounds…

“As president, Trump has quite patently gathered his cues from cable shows, and the evidence surfaces in his Twitter account. Analysts have taken to tracing the substance of his tweets to programming moments on CNN or Fox News.”

“Some White House officials — who early on would appear on TV to emphasize points to their boss, who was likely to be watching just steps away in his residence — have started tuning into Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” because they know the president habitually clicks it on after waking near dawn.” – Erik Wemple/Ashley Parker The Washington Post

“White House staff have learned to cater to the president’s image obsession by presenting decisions in terms of how they’ll play in the press.” -Josh Dawsey, Politico

“MSNBC and Fox News are cashing in on Trump’s viewing habits, reportedly hiking up ad rates in February “as companies and outside groups try to influence Trump and his top lieutenants” through ads on his favorite networks.” -Elaine Godfrey, The Atlantic

Trump wants all his weed policies to be broadly popular and perceived as the strongest and best. That’s not news. What is news is that press briefings, media surrogates, and high ranking government officials used to be reliable attempts to describe an administration’s decided drug policy. Now, they’re active arguments to the president regarding an undecided one.

Used to be, federal pot statements were carefully orchestrated and approved soundbytes. Now, they’re often jockeying for future validation for putting on a popular show. It’s depressing, but cannabis is no third rail in getting this treatment, healthcare, taxes, immigration, civil rights, foreign affairs and been treated similarly.

So media around cannabis laws is more crucial than ever both for influencing the commander-n-chief, feeling out his staff’s arguments, and judging individual players overall influence. This ranges from dramatic reports of arrests and injury, to human interest pieces on patients in need or entrepreneurial green businesses. Cannabis law reformers talking to the press better behave, the president might be watching. For the public, this results in a type of “read between the lines” comprehension of news that reformers have long engaged in when judging media veracity, but is becoming a mainstream lenses for the public.

In last month’s budget debate, the White House did little to stop the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment protecting state medical marijuana programs, with Trump later asserting his ability to enforce constitutional duties even with that amendment on the books in the law’s signing statement. Some news outlets immediately interpreted this as a warning shot to medical patients. In all likelihood, the president wants flexibility and firmness simultaneously, and his discretion on this and many other parts of the budget strongly keep his options and opinions amorphous. Its disappointing because he had the opportunity to lead a conversation on individual rights, safety, and economic instead of perpetually reacting to it.

A lot of people know not to trust everything they hear on TV, and as an internet commentator, I’m not saying otherwise. But, knowing what and how pot is being talking about on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox is not a sign of being duped by “lamestream news” so much as trying to understand pot’s portrayal to the president at any given moment. During the campaign, Trump promised to keep the country in suspense on whether or not he’d accept election results. On cannabis at least, that promise has been kept.

If President Trump was going to war with legal pot, he won’t hesitate to tweet it. You don’t have to like every CNN commentator or Fox & Friends to contact them and share your support for legal weed. Until then, follow cannabis in the news without obsessing over it. Our president has that covered.

 

OMNICANNABIS: The WA State Senate Made Behemoth Pot Legislation, And It May Be Too Big To Fail

by Bailey Hirschburg

WASHINGTON: In lawmaking jargon, omnibus legislation is a single bill that has lots of topics or issues with a loose theme. Anything can be, but until recently marijuana was usually part of a omnibus drug/crime bills, not the centerpiece. The common attitude at the Capital in Olympia is that bills shouldn’t be so large that individual changes avoid debate or examination. Omnibus is a great way to sneak in changes or spending that might not withstand public scrutiny.

And so we have Engrossed Second Substitute Bill 5131, (ESSB 5131 for short, and the bill begs for shortness.) what House Majority Whip Jessyn Farrell’s called the state Senate’s “one stop shop” for marijuana legislation.

5131 started as an 11 page senate bill. It amended four sections of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) and created a new one. This revised some notifications, changed some jurisdictional requirements for court cases, and most controversially, removed the merit-based part of the application for marijuana licensees that was intended to prioritize experienced and professional staff from former medical dispensaries into the combined medical/recreational marijuana system. The application process faced lawsuits and complaints that the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) had unfair expectations and was the wrong agency to secure adequate patient access.

ESSB 5131 is now a 32 page bill amending 10 sections of the RCW, adds new sections to three other chapters, reenacts and amends two chapters, and creates multiple new sections. This covered everything in the original bill, as well as immunity for LCB staff enforcing the state’s controlled substances act, limits on marijuana advertising, seed sales to patients directly from licensed producers, hemp research, allowing marijuana consulting and branding contracts, and even more. During last week’s public hearing in the House Commerce & Gaming committee, 5131’s original sponsor, Sen. Ann Rivers inspired confidence by saying “the reality is it’s always good for me to listen to what’s in this bill because it has grown, and grown, and grown,”

5131 grew by taking parts from other bills that hadn’t been introduced or acted on in the Senate. It passed the Senate unanimously because, as Rivers described says, it was a “one vote wonder” that allowed every senator to hold their nose and vote for some part of it. “Rip the band-aid off and let the wound air out.” she explained. A graphic and telling metaphor for the Senate’s views on weed almost four and a half years after voters legalized it. “I wish there were a better way for me to say it but that’s just the most appropriate way I could think of.”

As an interested lobbyist on this issue, I wish there was a better way of imagining the citizens, patients, businesses, and communities impacted by legal marijuana than a scab. When I asked a Commerce & Gaming committee member if senators crammed everything into 5131 to avoid being on record on its individual components, he suggested that because every bill needs to be discussed in caucuses, the republican majority caucus in the senate simply didn’t want to thoroughly discuss each issue.

But most disappointing is after four years, our senators will gladly take sin-tax money from legal pot while still looking down on those paying up. Marijuana consumers will pay for 1.76% of Washington’s budget from 2017-2019 while struggling to get 1% of their senator’s consideration. It’s an immature attitude from what should be a high-minded institution.

The truth is there is good and bad in ESSB 5131. I testified on behalf of WA NORML PAC as “other” urging them to change language relating to seed/clone access for authorized patients, billboard advertising, and what information is exempted from public disclosure. A subsequent striker amendment (one which largely removes language from a bill) increased seed/clone access to patients, maintained billboard use for directions, and removes problematic language that would have removed financial considerations from being publicly disclosed. These changes will have to be passed by the house and voted on again by the senate. 

In the end, I’m left feeling much like our nose-holding senate, there’s enough that I like in ESSB 5131 to make it worth passing. But in rushing to remove the band-aid from this wound, Washington Senators sacrificed transparency and quality for quantity and speed. This one vote wonder has grown, but is it too big to fail?

Read over the bill, watch the hearings, and contact lawmakers with your reactions to ESSB 5131 by going here: http://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=5131&Year=2017

 

Read Up, Reach Out, And Help Reform Marijuana Laws

By Bailey Hirschburg, Legislative Associate, WA NORML PAC

WASHINGTON: Tuesday, March 7th is our 2017 Cannabis Community Lobby Day in Olympia. Even if you aren’t able to join us, you can still help. Below are several bills that impact recreational and medical cannabis consumers and could be passed into law this year or early next year. They have moved through some committees and may be voted on this week if lawmakers are pushed to act.

Attendees from across Washington will be discussing these and other marijuana issues with lawmakers. Your call to lawmakers helps to turn up the volume.

What follows is the same information and talking points given to attendees, as well as info on how you can contact lawmakers from home.

Once you’re done, let us know how it went by posting on social media using #CannabisCommunityLobbyDay .

EXAMPLE:

BILL#1 (Says whether to talk to Senator/Representatives) A title/subject sentence the legislature uses to describe the bill.

Explanation of how it impacts cannabis consumers in the legal market.

– A talking point or fact to discuss that helps frame the issue positively.

HB2021 (Representatives) Authorizing the sale of marijuana plants and seeds to qualifying patients and designated providers.

Medical marijuana patients and caregivers are allowed to cultivate cannabis but have no way to secure seeds/clones outside of one of the few medical cooperatives registered with the state. This would allow medically endorsed retailers/producers to sell seeds/clones to patients with authorizations or registered designated providers.

-There have been problems merging medical and recreational laws together, this starts to address safe access for patients, keeps potential medical crops tested, and helps the state observe distribution.

-Some retailers have medical endorsements, but according to the staff of the LBC, almost none have compliant products. Seeds offer producers an incentive into making compliant products, motivating businesses and patients to participate in the legal market.

HB1461 (Representatives) & SB5323 (Senators) Relating to creating a voluntary marijuana production standard and certification program.

The organic certification is a federal term, so the state cannot use this on cannabis. This takes comparable language to federal organic standards and applies them to a certification program overseen by the state Dept. of Agriculture. 

– Consumers appreciate the environmental and health implications of organic-type certification and would benefit from a recognizable and consistent standard.

-This incentivizes outdoor production which benefits the atmosphere through oxygenation while using less energy than indoor production.

SB5290 (Senators) Relating to the administration of marijuana to students for medical purposes.

Requires rules process for allowing caregivers/guardians to administer non-inhaled marijuana to registered student-patients at schools, buses, and school sponsored events. Currently, it’s optional, meaning school districts can avoid preparation even when a student is in need. It’s companion bill, HB1060, recently passed the state house.

-Colorado and New Jersey currently have laws accommodating student-patients. Our state has an expectation to provide education, and current federal law prohibits interference in state medical cannabis program. (H.Amdt. 748 to H.R.4660 – Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015)

-Fortunately, there aren’t many needing this, but the current practice in many districts is for parents to take students off site to use medicine. This hinders learning and socialization that’s crucial for child development.

-This requires minimal planning and no staff participation, we shouldn’t wait until a student is missing out.

SB5324 (Senators) Relating to adding authority to the department of agriculture to regulate sanitary processing of marijuana-infused edibles.

Applies authority of state Dept. of Agriculture in sanitary food handling to infused-edibles and establishes a producer endorsement for them. Currently, Ag contracts with the LCB to monitor but can’t act on violations independently.

-Most edibles are made and handled well, but consumers appreciate knowing they’re regulated similarly to other food items.

There are also issues like home growing, and social cannabis use that the legislature hasn’t advanced. HB1212 passed unanimously out of the house Commerce & Gaming Committee, beyond personal cultivation it legalized sharing/gifting, and allowed patients or individuals to have their crop tested in a lab. A great bill, but no interest in the state senate.

Another bill proposed increasing the penalty for public consumption of cannabis, but nothing has been put forth for private events/businesses to allow even outdoor marijuana use. The frequent reason given is that there isn’t an appetite among lawmakers for those changes. There is an appetite for the cannabis tax revenue that funds 1.76% of the state budget. Consumers have been scared to speak up because of social/legal barriers. Some are broken. You’re breaking more.

WA NORML 2017 Cannabis Lobby Day at WA State Capital In Olympia Is March 7th

WASHINGTON: The cannabis community in Washington is activating once again for the annual Lobby Day in Olympia.  This year’s theme is “Building Community Through Relationships” and Washington NORML is doing that by bringing together cannabis consumers and members of our legal industry to meet with lawmakers, according to Kevin Oliver, executive director of WANORML. “We will be discussing medical and recreational cannabis bills as well as industry changes that benefit consumers.”

Screenshot 2017-03-02 11.58.21What: Cannabis community lobby day- “Building Community Through Relationships.” 

When: 3/7/17, 9:30am-5pm 

WA NORML PAC Reception 5-7pm

Where: State Capitol Campus, Olympia, WA. Office Building 2 (OB2) auditorium, 1115 Washington St SE, Olympia, WA 98501 

Who: sponsored by NORML Women of Washington, Washington NORML PAC, S.A.G.E., and The Cannabis Alliance 

Request a meeting with your representatives and state senators now!

Besides meeting lawmakers, you’ll network with other concerned citizens that day then have the chance for some light food with attendees and legislators during a reception following that days events at Olympia’s Governor Hotel.

The Days Events:

– Meet at 9:30am for opening greeting and lobby training. 

– Group photo at noon out front of Pritchard Library followed by lunch on your own

– Meetings with your legislators (Schedule your own, find your elected officials here)

– Wrap-up discussion from 4-5pm, followed by a reception at the Governor Hotel, 621 Capitol Way S Olympia, WA 98501, lite food/drink service*

Grow-less In Seattle: A Tale Of Two Home Growing Bills

By Bailey Hirschburg

WASHINGTON: If you’ve been following legalization in Washington,  you probably know that we’re the only one of the eight legal states (plus the District of Columbia) that does not allow adults to grow their own cannabis at home.

Initiative 502’s authors decided to drop home grow, in an effort to broaden its appeal. Washington’s initiative passed in 2012 with 56% of the vote — the same as Colorado whose law includes personal cultivation — a missed opportunity.

In the years that followed, political action in Olympia focused first on setting up the first crop of licensed growers, processors, and retailers. Then, legislators turned their attention to reforming the state’s medical marijuana laws, eliminating largely unregulated collectives in favor of registered co-ops, and offering the largest cannabis gardens and biggest retail discounts to patients registered with Washington’s Department of Health.

Nearly four and a half years after Washington picked a new approach to personal cannabis use,  we’re only now talking about personal cultivation and so there was a lot of anticipation coming into the Commerce and Gaming Committee’s hearings on house bills 1092 and 1212 last Monday. The two home grow bills are basically the same, both legalizing cultivation for adults 21 and older. HB1092, sponsored by Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-23rd), has been discussed and promoted more in the greener corners of the internet.

Appleton has been supportive of cannabis reform for several years, and is known as a genuine ally. Her bill is short and straightforward, and allows houses with more than one person over 21 to have up to 12 plants while retaining up to 48 ounces of harvested cannabis. Based solely on plant count, its easy to call Appleton’s bill the best one.

But HB1212, sponsored by Rep. Brian Blake (D-19th), while allowing only 6 plants and 24 ounces per house, has some benefits Appleton’s bill lacks. First, it legalizes sharing and gifting of cannabis between adults, a little-enforced, but still felony offense in the state. Blake’s bill would also allow adults, patients, and caregivers to contract with laboratories directly to have their cannabis plants scientifically tested for potency and contaminants. Both sharing and individual testing would benefit patients and recreational growers.

HB1212 also restructures possession offenses for cannabis generally, possession of more than six plants but less than 18 would be a civil infraction for every excess plant. Over 18 plants is a misdemeanor, and 40 or more is a felony.

Rep. Blake’s legislation has two more benefits, first, Blake sits on the Commerce and Gaming Committee, well positioned to push for its passage. The second is more speculative, but when there are two bills dealing with cannabis, I’ve found he conservatively worded is more likely to gain support.

At Monday’s hearing many of those speaking in support were patients and their families. Also present were cannabis licensees and industry representatives. Those speaking in opposition were Rick Garza from Washington’s Liquor and Cannabis Board and Seth Dawson representing Washington Association for Substance Abuse Prevention.

As a lobbyist for Washington NORML PAC, I was the only person to testify as a recreational consumer and prospective grower. My argument was similar to those made by others: the rest of the legal states already allow for home grow; it keeps police resources focused on large scale trafficking and violent crime; and most of us won’t be Cannabis Cup level master growers.

But I made one more argument that no one else did. Section 7 of our state constitution reads “No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law.” Maybe the state once had a valid interest in violating homes for a plant, I said, but not when voters rejected prohibition. You don’t have to like cannabis to agree that our constitution thinks the homes and affairs of its citizens should be sacred.

Following the hearing several committee members said they were interested in passing one of the bills, a republican member said he was more likely to support 1212 than 1092. If the majority of the committee votes “Do Pass” on either bill it will advance to another committee, eventually having to pass the house, and do the whole process again in the state senate.

No state has legalized personal cultivation outside of the ballot box, so just making the case to one committee in one chamber of the legislature brings Washington one step closer to making cannabis history.

Watch the hearing on TVW:

Contact members of the Commerce and Gaming Committee here and urge passage of either HB1092 or HB1212.

  • David.Sawyer@leg.wa.gov
  • Shelley.Kloba@leg.wa.gov
  • Cary.Condotta@leg.wa.gov
  • Brandon.Vick@leg.wa.gov
  • Andrew.Barkis@leg.wa.gov
  • Brian.Blake@leg.wa.gov
  • Jessyn.Farrell@leg.wa.gov
  • Bill.Jenkin@leg.wa.gov
  • Steve.Kirby@leg.wa.gov
  • Cindy.Ryu@leg.wa.gov
  • Jesse.Young@leg.wa.gov

 

WA NORML Pac Lobbyist: Growing Opportunities For Cannabis Consumers

By M. Bailey Hirschburg

WASHINGTON: It’s difficult asking people to get excited about lobbyists. Who can blame them? There are enough examples of lobbyists putting personal gain and access to power ahead of public good, or striking deals on issues they barely care about just to cash a paycheck.

Still, I’m excited to be a lobbyist. I’ve been hired by Washington NORML’s new Political Action Committee (PAC) to represent cannabis consumers interests in Olympia this year. After years of volunteering my time w/ NORML, the Drug Policy Alliance, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and New Approach Washington’s I-502, this is the first time I’ve been paid to work on drug law reform.

It’s part time. I’m likely one of the lowest paid lobbyists at the Capitol. There are lots of lobbyists dealing with marijuana policies but they often look out for businesses, medical patients, governments or police. What about everyday adult consumers? That’s where I’ll come in.

Strictly speaking, I’m working under the direction of WA NORML PAC’s board of directors. It’s headed by Kevin Oliver, a long time cannabis activist, and a licensed grower from eastern Washington. My proposal to Oliver and WA NORML PAC was based on looking out for cannabis consumers in Washington specifically, and the security of marijuana rights generally. I won’t support bills only to help businesses. I won’t speak for patients or hemp farmers, but I will speak with and stand beside them as much as possible.

WA NORML PAC priorities this session will focus on legalizing homegrow for adults, which every other legal state has in some way. And permitting fair on-site cannabis use policies to make social smoking in licensed businesses and events more common, and use on public streets less common. There’s a lot of cannabis laws already introduced; I’ll be promoting legislation benefiting cannabis consumers while opposing bills that needlessly criminalize or put undue burdens on them. Vigilance is crucial to maintaining the legal system voters enacted.

None of this stops everyday cannabis consumers reading this from contacting their lawmakers and speaking their minds. In fact, NORML.org is a great resource for you. That’s how I got here. You can read up on my required reporting to the state Public Disclosure Commission, beginning next month, here.

And you can learn about the requirements and limitations for lobbyists in Washington here:

NORML is the oldest marijuana advocacy group in the nation, and this year they’re organizing a series of lobbying days nationwide to help put you in front of lawmakers to share your concerns. In Washington, it will be Tuesday, March 7th, headed by NORML Women of Washington and WA NORML PAC, and whatever your canna-policy passion we can help you make your best case to lawmakers.

WA NORML PAC will make all the progress possible, but I hope everyone who cares about cannabis issues will continue to learn and work with legislators so we can secure more rights and enjoy greater benefits across Washington.

M. Bailey Hirschburg is a long time advocate of justice reform with expertise in drug policy and a focus on marijuana law. He is director of Thurston County NORML and was the south sound volunteer organizer for 2012’s Initiative 502 which legalized and regulated adult marijuana use statewide.

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.