With a new year, comes a new legislative session, which started on January 10, 2022 here in Washington state. In Washington, we have short sessions (60 days) in even-numbered years and longer sessions (105 days) in odd-numbered years, so in 2022 there will be a short session. This post examines five cannabis-related bills that we are keeping an eye on. This is a non-exhaustive list, as nineteen bills relating to cannabis are being considered by the state legislature, as reported by Cannabis.Observer. It’s unclear whether any of these bills will actually become laws, but these are some of the Washington cannabis bills to watch in 2022.
HB 1667 - “Concerning ownership of cannabis-related businesses.”
The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board requires that any person who owns, manages, or is entitled to a share of the profits from a licensed marijuana business be a resident of the state of Washington. In addition, the license must be issued in the names of the natural persons who own the licenses.
HB 1667 would change that. Only natural persons with more than ten percent ownership of the license would need to be on the license, or if there is no person with more than ten percent, then the person with the largest ownership interest must be named on the license. All individuals holding less than ten percent would need to be disclosed to the WSLCB.
In addition, a non-resident could own more than ten percent of a licensed business, so long as the WSLCB can investigate that person the same way they would investigate a state resident. The WSLCB would also need to come up with an application designed for entities applying to own a marijuana license.
HB 1668 and companion bill SB 5547- “Expanding regulatory authority over cannabinoids that may be impairing and providing for enhanced product safety and consumer information disclosure about marijuana products.”
HB 1668 and SB 5547 would expand the WSLCB’s authority to regulate products containing cannabinoids derived from hemp. Currently, in Washington products containing cannabinoids derived from hemp, such as CBD, are basically unregulated. It is unlawful to sell any products containing hemp-derived cannabinoids that are intended for ingestion or inhalation. Despite this, you can find CBD and delta-8 products in grocery stores, gas stations and convenience stores across the state. Under this proposed law, the WSLCB, who currently regulates cannabis and not hemp, would be given authority over the following:
- Products containing cannabinoids that may be impairing (including cannabinoids like delta-8);
- Products that contain greater than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis; and
- Products that contain 0.5 or more milligrams per serving or two or more milligrams total in the packaged product of any cannabinoid that may be impairing.
It appears that Washington may follow in the footsteps of states like Oregon who are distinguishing CBD products based on both a percentage of THC and based on a flat milligram limitation of intoxicating cannabinoids. The use of the term “cannabinoid that may be impairing” casts a wider net than just delta-9 THC and would include delta-8 THC and likely any other novel cannabinoid that had an intoxicating effect.
Under the proposed law, the manufacture and sale of Artificial Cannabinoids would be prohibited. “Artificial Cannabinoid” means “a solely chemically created substance that does not originate from the plant Cannabis but is structurally the same or substantially similar to the molecular structure of any substance derived from the plant Cannabis that may be a cannabinoid receptor agonist and includes, but is not limited to, any material, compound, mixture, or preparation that is not listed as a controlled substance in Schedules I through V of the Washington state controlled substances act.” The definition does not include naturally occurring substances extracted from cannabis, cannabinoids produced by decarboxylation without use of a chemical, or any other chemical substance resembling any compound in cannabis that is identified by rule by the WSLCB in consultation with Washington Department of Health (WDOH).
The proposed legislation also defines other key terms. “CBD Product” means any product containing or consisting of cannabidiol that does not exceed 0.3 percent THC and does not contain more than 0.5 milligrams per serving or two milligrams total in the packaged product of a cannabinoid that may be impairing. The definition of “Marijuana Products” is also altered to include “any product with 0.5 milligrams per serving or two milligrams or more per package of a cannabinoid that may be impairing or that is marketed as such.” That means that a product containing intoxicating cannabinoids solely derived of hemp becomes a marijuana product based on the level of those hemp-derived intoxicating cannabinoids and as a result could only be sold to the public by marijuana retailers. The proposed legislation also defines “Synthetically Derived Cannabinoid” as “any cannabinoid that is that is altered by a chemical reaction that changes the molecular structure of any natural cannabinoid derived from the plant Cannabis to another cannabinoid found naturally in the plant Cannabis.” The legislation also would alter the definition of THC to include delta-8 and delta-10 in addition to other intoxicating cannabinoids.
The law allowing marijuana producers to add hemp-derived CBD to marijuana products would also be impacted. First, the allowance to add CBD would be expanded to allow the addition of other non-impairing cannabinoids derived from hemp. If these cannabinoids are added to marijuana products, the producer would need to include a disclaimer regarding the added cannabinoids and the method upon which the cannabinoid was produced.
SB 5517 - “Concerning employment of individuals who lawfully consume cannabis.”
SB 5517 would prohibit employers from failing or refusing to hire a prospective employee due to the presence of cannabis in a drug screening test. This prohibition would not apply to employers who lose “a monetary or licensing-related benefit under federal law,” if inconsistent or in conflict with an employment contract or a collective bargaining agreement, if inconsistent or in conflict with provisions of federal law, or to a position of employment funded by a federal grant. While this list of prohibitions will mean that some applicants may be disqualified for employment due to cannabis use, SB 5517 would open employment opportunities for individuals who use cannabis.
HB 1710 – “Establishing a Washington state cannabis commission.”
This proposed bill would create a commission to oversee the research and education of the Washington cannabis industry. The Washington Cannabis Commission would:
- Plan and conduct programs for cannabis-related matters
- Conduct research
- Cooperate with and advise local, state, and federal agencies or other interested parties with respect to cannabis-related matters
- Assist in standardizing methods by which to identify and determine the genetics, strains, cultivars, phenotypes, standards, and grades of cannabis and advise on packaging and labeling requirements
- Conduct reviews, surveys, and inquiries regarding market metrics and analytics
- Inform and advise producers and producer/processors in all matters regarding cannabis
- Provide cannabis-related education and training to producers, producer/processors, researchers, and their employees, including health and safety information
- Provide information and services for meeting resource conservation objectives of producers and producer/processors
- Assist and cooperate with local, state, or federal government agencies in the investigation and control of pests, diseases, and other factors that could adversely affect the cultivation, quality, or safety of cannabis;
- Advance knowledge and practice of the production of cannabis through the research and testing of methods to improve pest management, worker protection and safety training, energy efficiency, and environmental protection
- Foster conditions favorable to investment in the production of Washington cannabis consistent with state and federal laws
- Limit youth access and youth exposure to cannabis
- Enable cannabis producers and producer/processors to develop and engage in research, provide for uniform grading and proper preparation of cannabis commodities for market protect the interest of consumers by advising on the overall production of cannabis, discover and develop new and improved cultivars, and advance knowledge and the practices of processing cannabis in the state.
Stay tuned to the Green Light Law Blog for updates on the legislative process in Washington State. We will continue to track these bills, along with any other that pick up steam over the next two months.