The first two weeks of the New Year bring many changes. We make resolutions, we break them immediately, and our state legislators introduce a bunch of weird bills. This year’s crop includes proposals to legalize delivery services, reduce taxes on marijuana, and change the regulation of scientific marijuana research. Noticeably absent: a bill on public consumption, which is fast becoming a major issue in places where marijuana has been legalized.
Reduce Taxes on Weed
HB 2347, sponsored by Rep. Chris Hurst (D-Enumclaw, who has a fantastic mustache), would reduce the marijuana excise tax from 37 percent to 25 percent. While it would mean less money for drug education, schools, birding trails, or whatever the hell your local authorities choose to spend their pot loot on, it would also reduce the competitive advantage that black market pot still enjoys over legal weed, which is significant in light of a recent report commissioned by the Liquor and Cannabis Board estimated that the black market share to be a little under one-third of the total market. If we wrest that market share away from the underground, we can make up the lost tax revenue with more sales.
Pilot Program for Delivery Services
HB 2368, also sponsored by Rep. Hurst, seeks to create a pilot program for delivery services, further enhancing the competitive advantage of the legal market. Ian Eisenberg, of Uncle Ike’s, has complained that illegal delivery services undercut his business, and this new legislation would help give legal businesses like his a leg up. The pilot program would authorize “up to five qualified licensed marijuana retailers to deliver marijuana to Washington residents in a city with a population of over 650,000.”
Seattle officials are largely driving HB 2368. At a recent Seattle City Council meeting, councilmember Lorena Gonzalez urged action to eliminate illegal delivery services. David Mendoza, the Mayor Ed Murray’s policy advisor, has said that shutting them down is the city’s next enforcement priority. He teamed up with Rep. Hurst and City Attorney Pete Holmes’ office to write HB 2368, and says it’s “one the city will be advocating for this session.”
Regulate Industrial Hemp
SB 6062, introduced by Sen. Bob Hasegawa (D-Seattle, who has an alright mustache), seeks to legalize and regulate the production of industrial hemp. The bill specifies that cultivation of cannabis sativa be legal, provided the plant’s THC concentration remains below 0.3 percent. It also classifies non-psychoactive cannabis as an agricultural product “that may be grown, produced, possessed, and commercially traded in the state.”
Change Public Disclosure Laws
SB 6207, introduced by everyone’s favorite child-felonizing state senator, Ann Rivers (R-La Center), is actually hard to pass judgment on. On one hand, it would add sensitive industry information to the list of information that is currently exempt from public disclosure for up to five years, which is a difficult cause for any journalist to get behind. But some of this information—especially when it regards future locations of retail pot stores—could be used by monopolists to shut out competitors. See the whole Ruckus versus Capitol Hill Family Arcade fiasco.
Lift the Ban on Pot Merchandise
This bill, from Rep. Sharon Wylie (D-Vancouver, who has no mustache but a very strong scarf game), adds “marijuana merchandise” to the list of things allowed for sale in retail marijuana stores. About effing time. The ban on merchandise sales in pot shops is patently ridiculous. You can buy pot in a bag with the company’s logo brazenly displayed on it, so what’s the harm in buying a T-shirt with the same logo? It also would authorize the LCB to make rules regarding design and marketing standards for merchandise, as they have with store signage. Expect tiny logos.
Ease Rules on Investors
As I reported this week, the LCB recently proposed new rules that would lift the ban on out-of-state investment. HB 2364, also from Wylie, would be a similar effort, allowing “partners,” members, or shareholders” to be exempt from the state residency requirement, and would strike the requirement that all members of the legal entity that holds the license (a partnership, employee cooperative, association, nonprofit corporation, corporation) be eligible for the license. It would also add LLCs to the list of legal entities eligible to obtain a license. Whether more out-of-state investment in the weed industry is good or bad remains to be seen.
Give LCB More Power in Regulating Marijuana Research
SB 6177, from Sen. Rivers, removes the Life Sciences Discovery Fund (LSDF) from the Marijuana Research License application process, replacing it with an LCB-designated “scientific reviewer.” Don’t worry, it doesn’t seem like Rivers is pulling some GWB-era science suppression so much as trying to bring the licensing process entirely under the LCB’s roof. Whether they are more equipped to effectively regulate the scientific study of marijuana than the LSDF is anyone’s guess though.
Plus: Seattle Shrinks Buffer Zones Around Pot Businesses
Back here in Seattle, the city council unanimously passed a new ordinance on zoning for marijuana business on Monday. The LCB put control of pot zoning back in the hands of cities, allowing them to reduce buffer zones between legal pot shops and places like parks and child care centers to as little as 100 feet. Seattle did not go for 100, but rather 250 for producer/processors citywide, 250 for retailers in certain areas of the downtown core, and 500 feet for everyone else. (However, buffer zones will remain at 1,000 feet for schools and playgrounds, per state law.) Also, a new dispersion requirement was introduced, allowing no more than two marijuana businesses with 1000 feet of each other, in order to reduce the dreaded “clustering” phenomenon.