Two Views Of Personal Cultivation Of Cannabis: NORML Vs. LCB

By Bailey Hirschburg

The following is one section of a report presented by Washington NORML to the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) regarding their study of regulatory options for home growing. WA NORML’s full report, “Personal Cultivation of Cannabis: A look at policy alternatives” can be found here: (MJNN link to .pdf file “WA NORML Home Grow Report1”)

As written, none of the LCB options were practical or addressed the issue. Option 1, which requires a permit and plants to be in a state traceability system, with greater authority shared between the LCB and local authorities, and option 3, status quo home grow prohibition, are discussed further in the report.

This excerpt focuses on the questions the LCB encourages the public to address, option 2 “State Framework, local authority” and WA NORML’s revised “Civil Liberties Option, with State Framework & Local Authority.”

The LCB is taking public comment on three regulatory options, found here. Email your comments to rules@lcb.wa.govby October 11th to see they’re included in the study’s public response.

EXCERPT:

What cultivation policy is best for our state? On Sept. 13th, the LCB released a request for stakeholder input on three draft options for personal cultivation along with specific questions on a “Stakeholder Outreach Questionnaire.” Those questions were:

1. Which of the above options best protects the state under the Cole Memo from intervention by the federal government?

2. What resource impacts (work hours, costs, etc.), positive or negative, do you foresee for the regulatory options listed above?

3. What are the challenges or benefits (or both) associated with each of the regulatory options listed above?

4. Please provide any additional feedback you believe would be helpful to consider as part of this study.

This paper itself broadly addresses question #4. “Constitutional Concerns & The Cole Memo” addressed Question #1 specifically.  What follows are the three LCB options with answers to stakeholder questions #2 and #3, a revised Option 2, and evaluation of recent legislative bills on the issue.

2. State Framework, Local Authority

• Allow recreational home grows under a regulatory framework based on statewide standards set in statute, but authorized, controlled, and enforced by local jurisdictions (counties, cities).

• Include statutory requirements for security, preventing youth access, preventing diversion, etc. (Cole Memo).

• Require a permit to possess plants. Absent a permit, growing marijuana for any purpose is illegal.

• Limit of no more than 4 plants per household.

• Include a statutory provision to allow recreational growers to acquire plants from licensed producers so long as the person possesses a valid permit.

• Include a statutory provision that allows law enforcement to seize and destroy all plants possessed by a person if the person has more plants than the law allows.

• Include the same restrictions that apply to medical marijuana patients on processing marijuana in recreational home grows (no extraction with combustible materials. See WAC 314-55-430).

• The Legislature may choose to allow local jurisdictions to “opt-in” for or “opt-out” of allowing recreational home grows, similar to the approach the Legislature took with marijuana licenses and registered medical marijuana patient cooperative grows.

2. What resource impacts (work hours, costs, etc.), positive or negative, do you foresee for the regulatory options listed above? By losing individual plant tracking and deferring to local authorities while giving them a clear “opt in/out” option the state shifts some costs (except for permitting) from option 1 somewhat or largely over to local authorities.

3. What are the challenges or benefits (or both) associated with each of the regulatory options listed above? This gives local governments too much control over residents’ private affairs. Similar to the challenges to option 1: fair enforcement, securing citizen information, legal challenges against a commercial regulator doing residential policing or civil suits on biased, aggressive, or improper enforcement. Like Option 1, this regulates recreational grows more strictly than medical grows. This option is also susceptible to claims that it unjustly limits civil liberties by allowing jurisdictions to opt in or out of honoring them.

Revised Option 2. Civil Liberties Option, with State Framework & Local Authority

• Allow recreational home grows with restrictions based on statewide standards set in statute, but controlled and enforced by local jurisdictions (counties, cities).

• Limit of no more than 15 plants per household.

• Maintain existing statutory requirements and penalties for public use, youth access, unlicensed sales, preventing diversion, etc.

• Include a statutory provision to allow recreational growers to acquire plants from licensed producers, and allowing accredited testing laboratories to contract with adults over 21 directly to have recreational home grow samples tested.

• Include a statutory provision that allows law enforcement to seize and destroy any plants possessed by a person beyond established limits.

• Include the same restrictions that apply to medical marijuana patients on processing marijuana in recreational home grows (no extraction with combustible materials. See WAC 314-55-430). Clearly establish that authorized and registered medical marijuana patient grows and registered cooperative medical marijuana grows are separate from any recreational home grow limits.

• The Legislature may choose to allow local jurisdictions to “opt-in” for or “opt-out” of allowing outdoor home grows plainly visible from public or federal properties.

2. What resource impacts (work hours, costs, etc.), positive or negative, do you foresee for the regulatory options listed above? Significantly less costs than any LCB option. Minor retraining for producers or retailers selling seeds/clones. Updated rules for law enforcement, traceability system requirements, and regular zoning issues for local jurisdictions. Eventual savings or revenue from seed/clone sales, ancillary products/services, and increasing effectiveness of eradication efforts.

3. What are the challenges or benefits (or both) associated with each of the regulatory options listed above? Increased tracking of sales and distribution to estimate home grow markets. Distinguishing between medical and recreational gardens. Outdoor zoning may impact property values based on preferred outdoor growing options. More testing of home grown samples, and judicious use of enforcement by not expecting a single extra plant to warrant removal of a person’s entire garden. This regulates recreational growing on a similar scale to medical growing.

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.

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

 

Q&A With WA NORML Executive Director Kevin Oliver

WASHINGTON: As the so-called long session begins in Olympia, all eyes in Washington’s cannabis turn toward possible tweaks to I-502 licensed businesses and the future of medical marijuana.  MJ News Network asked Washington NORML’s Executive Director Kevin Oliver to give his predictions on what the coming year portends for Washington’s cannabis community.

Q: Many I-502 licensees complain both about the high tax rates on marijuana, and the special burdens of an excise tax. Can we expect any relief in the upcoming legislative session?

A: The legal adult possession and use of marijuana, as well as the taxed and legally regulated production, processing and sale of marijuana by WSLCB licensed businesses, will continue to roll out at an increased pace as protocols are streamlined and bugs in the licensing processes ironed out. Additionally, the legislature could collapse the current tax rate from a three tier system to one tax and in so doing lower the overall tax burden to marijuana businesses. Also, there seems to be a broad base of support to change the definition of the tax from an excise tax, (which disallows it being deducted from income on federal taxes), to a sales or trust fund tax, thereby allowing marijuana businesses to deduct state taxes from federal taxes.

Q: What is the future for Washington’s hundreds of unlicensed medical marijuana dispensaries?

A: It is very apparent that the current iteration of medical marijuana dispensaries – unlicensed and unregulated – are not viewed as legal or necessary by law makers or law enforcement. This will become increasingly clear as the legislature decides the best course of action for unlicensed commercial marijuana operations. The sick and dying deserve affordable access to quality marijuana, and it is my feeling that the legislature will take steps to ensure that access is provided in a legally regulated market.

Q: And what will that mean for the patients who depend on medical cannabis?

A: I do not believe that patients will suffer from regulation, indeed, every patient I know has, at one time or another, purchased moldy or buggy pot from a dispensary. That is not to say that some dispensaries are not on par with the best practices of quality control and selection that come standard to legal retail stores. It is only to say that, presently, dispensaries have as much liability and regulation as lemonade stands.

And, patients will always get their marijuana – especially here in WA. Marijuana, whether regulated or not, is ubiquitous to any state and almost every country in the world. It always has been and always will be. So, it seems rather elitist for dispensary owners and their suppliers, who either didn’t win a sweepstakes for a retail storefront or opted out of the license application process altogether, to suggest that the estimated 103,000 patients with a valid doctors recommendation in this state, (only a percentage of whom actually use dispensaries), will not be adequately serviced without them –especially when another few hundred legally licensed retail stores are going to be opened up this year with tons of high quality marijuana stocking their shelves.

Presently, there are proposals in the legislature that would allow the WA Department of Health to certify retail stores to sell marijuana as medicine to those patients with a valid recommendation.

Q:   Will we see new legislation this session addressing the local zoning and moratoria that have effectively banned legal marijuana operations in 40% of the state?

A: Legislatively, in regards to zoning and moratoria, a line item could be added to the law, as the AG has suggested, forcing those rogue municipalities that have decided to ban or put a moratoria on state licensed marijuana businesses to comply with the voter approved state law.

Additionally, some of those municipalities are lobbying for revenue sharing of I-502 taxes, therby competing with the state general fund for those revenues which were earmarked for the state sponsored health care program that was replaced by the Affordable Health care Act.

There is also a bill to disallow, statewide, any marijuana business on property zoned R-5. That designation may be logical for residential zones, but certainly are not necessary in rural zones that presently allow other forms of commerce.

Q:   How will 2015 set us up for the 2016 national elections?

A: From a national perspective, 2016 looks to be a game changer for marijuana reform. First of all, this year (2015), California will have at least one successful citizen proposition qualify for the ballot. It will win, as it will be tailored conservatively (relative to CA) to get the largest percentage of voters possible, much like I-502. And as California goes, so goes the country.

Second, 2015 will see some movement in the US congress, probably in regards to the issue of banking. On the front lines of that is WA’s own Denny Heck, who, as a freshman Representative last year, took the lead to sponsor the marijuana banking act. We can anticipate similar legislation this year and hopefully, with the addition of Oregon and Alaska (not to mention D.C.) along with several more states bound to legalize in the next few years, we will see a banking bill get traction.

Finally, it is entirely possible that President Obama could re-schedule marijuana after the 2016 election, which would allow pharmaceutical companies to market patented cannabinoid products within the frame work of modern western medicine.

Washington NORML Official Statement to Snohomish County Emergency Moratorium

To whom it may concern,

The Washington State Affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws would like to submit the attached report to be placed on the record & provided to the planning department and county council in response to Snohomish county’s recently enacted ordinance (14-086) preventing marijuana production from taking place on R-5 zoned properties.

We strongly support the repeal of this ordinance and would also like to remind Snohomish County officials that as they consider what action to take this next Wednesday that they should remember the will of the voters who brought them into office who also approved I-502 by 54.6%.

We are aware that there exists a rather vocal minority in opposition of all marijuana businesses in the county, but disallowing property owners in Snohomish from earning a living on their own property through legal production of marijuana would be akin to telling Snohomish county cattle farmers that they can no longer raise cattle on their property due to the objections of a few animal rights activists, or telling a private mill owner that they can’t earn a living on their property due to the objections of a few environmental activists.  The reality is that marijuana production & processing, cattle farming, & milling lumber are all legal activities that should be allowed despite the moral objection of a few.

We urge Snohomish County Council to repeal this ordinance, considering only the facts rather than unfounded fears, perceived impacts, and the moral objections of a few.

 

Best Regards,

Crystal Oliver

Executive Assistant

Washington NORML

www.wanorml.org