The Washington State Senate approved a bill on Wednesday to eventually allow marijuana businesses to engage in interstate commerce.
The measure, approved in a vote of 40-8, would give the governor the authority to enter into agreements with other legal states to permit imports and exports between licensed cannabis companies.
“It is no secret that Washington has been a leader in the cannabis industry,” Sen. Ann Rivers (R), the bill’s sponsor, said on the floor ahead of the vote. “We have taken massive steps to make sure that the product produced here is labeled well and is tested and have the highest quality. We know that legalization on the federal level is coming. We’ve seen bills introduced and it feels like it’s getting closer.”
But the state’s industry “could be left in the dust if we’re out of town and unable to take action” when federal law changes, she said. “So we can entrust our governor to look out for this industry and make sure that business can flow from our state to other states and back to us in a legal way, in a safe way and in a way that can be enforced.”
Under SB 5069, products that come from out-of-state businesses would be required to comply with Washington regulations, including those related to packaging and labeling.
However, it would only take effect under one of two conditions: 1) if there’s a federal law change “to allow for the interstate transfer of cannabis” between legal businesses, or 2) if the U.S. Department of Justice issues an opinion “allowing or tolerating” marijuana commerce across state lines.
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If either of those conditions are met, state regulators would be required to provide written notice of the federal policy change, as well as any state-level “statutory changes necessary to authorize the sale, delivery, and receipt of cannabis” from out-of-state companies. Regulators would also need to adopt necessary rules for cross-border trade.
The bill had cleared required Senate committee stops last month. Meanwhile, companion legislation on the House side has advanced through committees in that chamber but has not been scheduled for floor action. The body will now receive the Senate-passed bill, however.
The Washington State legislation represents the latest state-level attempt to prepare for eventual interstate cannabis commerce, even as marijuana remains federally prohibited. California’s governor signed a similar measure last year. Before that, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) signed interstate marijuana commerce legislation into law in 2019.
On the other side of the country, New Jersey’s Senate president filed a similar proposal last year, but it has not yet been enacted.
Back in Washington, the interstate commerce proposal is one of several cannabis and drug policy reform that lawmakers are considering this year.
On the Senate floor last week, lawmakers approved a bill, SB 5123, that would protect most job candidates in the state from being discriminated against simply for using marijuana. The legislation notes that most drug tests detect only THC metabolites, which can remain in a person’s system for weeks after using cannabis. The protection would apply only to pre-employment drug tests. Workers could still be fired for a positive cannabis test that occurs after they’re hired.
Advocates are disappointed, however, that a bill to legalize home cultivation of marijuana has stalled yet again.
Additionally, legislation to legalize psilocybin services was gutted to remove its major provisions and transformed into a measure to simply study the issue.
Lawmakers also face an impending deadline to replace Washington’s law against drug possession before it expires on July 1. Following a state Supreme Court decision in February 2021 that invalidated the state’s felony law against drug possession, lawmakers enacted a temporary criminalization policy that reclassified possession as a gross misdemeanor.
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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.
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