Though Washington’s cannabis program has been up and running since the summer of 2014, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) continues tweaking the rules that govern cannabis licensed businesses in “the Evergreen State.” In addition to this, Washington State lawmakers are beginning to push for changes to the statutes governing cannabis businesses. Unlike rules, statutes are relatively stagnant, and it can sometimes require moving heaven and Earth in the state legislature to achieve statutory changes. In Washington, the statute that controls cannabis commerce is RCW 69.50, et seq., also known as Washington’s Controlled Substances Act. And this year, various lawmakers have sought to change that Act to address Washington’s expanded and more mature cannabis industry.
This year alone, around 30 cannabis-related bills were introduced in the Washington legislature. Out of those, only a few are still alive, but many of these have the potential to significantly impact the cannabis industry as they touch on home growing, cannabis in the workplace and medical cannabis consumption by qualified patient students at school.
“Washington’s maturing cannabis market and its normalization of cannabis are spurring progress on Washington State cannabis regulations.”
Washington State has a love/hate relationship with home growing. Before passage of Initiative 502, it was easy to cultivate relatively large amounts of cannabis in your home so long as you were a qualifying patient. But with passage of Senate Bill 5052, Washington’s Patient Protection Act, you must be a qualifying patient registered with the state’s qualifying patient database to grow at home. House Bill 1092 would change all of this by allowing each Washingtonian 21 and older to cultivate up to 12 plants (that may yield up to 24 ounces) within the housing unit he or she resides.
House Bill 1060 would expand medical cannabis access for students in school. It would mandate school districts allow qualifying patients to consume cannabis for medical purposes on school grounds, aboard a school bus or while attending a school-sponsored event—but no vaping. It would also require school districts enact protocols for verifying a student is a qualifying patient registered listed in the State’s patient database, designate the student’s parent or parents as the student’s caregiver(s), and identify locations on school grounds where the student can use medical cannabis.
House Bill 1094 will address workplace policies barring medical use of cannabis. Current laws permit employers to maintain a zero-tolerance policy for all drugs, including cannabis. House Bill 1094 will prevent employers from refusing to hire a qualifying patient, terminating a qualifying patient from employment, or discriminating against a qualifying patient because of the qualifying patient’s status as a qualifying patient or because the qualifying patient tests positive for cannabis. Employers though shall remain free not to hire or to terminate a medical cannabis patient if the qualifying patient used, possessed, or was impaired by cannabis on employment premises or during employment hours or if the employer will incur a monetary penalty or lose licensing-related benefits from the federal government for accommodating medical cannabis patients.
Washington’s maturing cannabis market and its normalization of cannabis are spurring progress on Washington state cannabis regulations. Even in the face of a federal government increasingly hostile to cannabis, Washington State moving forward in liberalizing its cannabis consumption rules and laws so as to expand its cannabis market.