Just before Olympia's regular session ended last week, a huge "omnibus bill" of pot laws quietly passed the legislature. The bill tackles a ton of legal issues, and it is now sitting on the governor's desk waiting for a signature. Governor Jay Inslee has 20 days to sign it, though his office declined to comment on his feelings about the bill.
So what's in this omnibus bill? A lot.
Medical cannabis patients can buy pot plants and seeds directly from producers. This fixes a huge problem from when the state merged medical cannabis into recreational cannabis last year. Under the old medical system, patients who wanted to grow their own pot at home could buy seeds or even clone plants directly from patient collectives. But when the state merged the two systems, it didn't provide any legal way for patients to buy seeds or clones—sending them to the black market. This fixes that.
For the first time, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board will study legalizing recreational home growing. We are the only state in the country that legalized recreational pot without allowing adults to legally grow pot at home. Right now, only people with medical pot cards can grow their own weed. The state is nervous about giving everyone this right while trying to stay out of the crosshairs of the "expect to see greater enforcement" Trump administration. This law would force the WSLCB to study the feasibility of legalizing recreational home growing and publish a report by December of this year. This isn't the rule change home-grow advocates are asking for, but this is the first time the WSLCB has officially studied changing the rules, and it will force the state to be on record on why we should or should not be able to decorate our homes with weed plants.
The state Department of Agriculture will run an "organic" certification program. If the governor signs this bill, there will now be an official certification for pot grown using organic methods. There are already private companies issuing "organic" certifications, but having a state-regulated certification has been a wish for a lot of the growers following these organic methods. The state won't be able to use the word "organic," because that is a federally controlled term and cannabis is still completely illegal under federal law, but this program will allow customers to know their pot was grown using organic methods.
Retail owners can own five pot dispensaries. State law previously limited weed store owners to three retail licenses (which is why big chain shops like Uncle Ike's and Evergreen Market each have three locations). This would increase the limit to five. Don't be surprised if these chain stores continue duplicating if the governor signs this bill—retail consolidation appears to be a moneymaker in this industry.
Weed billboards can no longer show pictures of pot. Lawmakers are getting nervous about the increasing creativity of pot advertising, so they've decided to make it illegal to depict a pot plant on a billboard or use any images of cartoon characters, toys, inflatables, or anything else "likely to be appealing to youth." It's a cutthroat business world right now in the age of plummeting pot prices, so it's not surprising that retailers are trying to lure more people in with creative roadside signs. But if the governor signs this bill, they'll be limited to displaying only their logo, business name, and locations on any billboards they commission.
The state will study legalizing industrial-hemp production. Despite legalizing pot, growing hemp is still illegal in our state. This bill instructs the Department of Agriculture and the WSLCB to study the feasibility of legalizing industrial-hemp production. The state already created a pilot program in 2016 to allow some hemp grown for research, but hemp has yet to be grown under that program. It's not clear if that's from a lack of interest or some regulatory delays, but this study is likely to force the question on legalizing industrial-hemp crops.
You can now legally "pass the dutchie on the left-hand side." State law currently prohibits sharing pot with anyone, even if both parties are of legal age. So you were unknowingly committing an act of civil disobedience last weekend when you passed that joint to your buddy. That would no longer be the case if the governor signs this bill, so everyone who has smoked weed with a friend in the last four years can now claim a legal victory in a battle we didn't know we were fighting. In the age of Trump, I'll take any political win I can get.