Washington Cannabis Bills Stall (Again) In 2021

Washington state failed to pass key updates to its medical and adult-use cannabis systems this year, including the state’s long-awaited home grow bill.

Full story after the jump.

Despite numerous bills advancing further than ever before, Washington state was unable to pass some key updates to both its medical and adult-use cannabis systems this legislative session, including a bill (HB 1210) that if passed would have simply changed the word “marijuana” to “cannabis” in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). However, lawmakers did manage to advance some improvements to the states’ long-delayed social equity program.

The first bill to hit a roadblock was Washington’s long-awaited cannabis home grow bill. HB 1019 would have allowed citizens over 21 to grow up to six plants at home (with a max of 15 per household) and possess the fruits of each year’s harvest. Similar to past years, the bill stalled early in the House Appropriations Committee. The bill’s primary sponsor Rep. Shelley Kloba (D) told Ganjapreneur that it failed due to pandemic complications but that she plans to continue trying to pass the reforms next year.

“With this session being held remotely, we are focusing our efforts on 4 main categories, COVID-19 relief, economic relief, racial equity, and climate change. HB 1019 did not fit neatly into one of these four categories and was not considered a high enough priority to consider in a year where we are hearing less legislation as a result of the pandemic. I plan on continuing to advocate for the bill next year in its current form and am hopeful that next year we will be able to get it across the finish line.” — Rep. Kloba, in an email to Ganjapreneur

In another setback, the legislature also failed to pass two key medical cannabis updates. SB 5004 would have removed the state’s 37 percent excise tax on Department of Health certified medical cannabis. The bill passed the Senate and moved forward in the House, but did not make it to a floor vote before a key deadline. Additionally, HB 1105 would have protected qualified Washington medical cannabis patients from arrest — Washington has a two-tier medical cannabis system wherein patients who register with the state are protected from arrest while unregistered but qualified patients can only claim an “affirmative defense” if they are arrested — stalled in the Senate Rules Committee. The bill was expected to pass right up to the deadline on April 11, 2021.

Rep. Kloba, who championed HB 1105 as well, remarked on its floundering, saying she was “very disappointed” that HB 1105 had ultimately failed and that she believed it was “not a high enough priority” for lawmakers.

“It is unfair that medical patients who follow the rules but choose not to enter a voluntary database would lack the legal protections against arrest and confiscation of their medicine granted to patients who do enter the database,” Rep. Kloba wrote in an email. “I am grateful for the medical cannabis community’s advocacy, pleased by the bill’s progress, and looking forward to getting it across the finish line next year.”

Washington did successfully approve updates to its cannabis social equity program, which has been delayed by a year due to COVID-19. HB 1443 expanded eligibility requirements for applicants, addressed technical fixes to the program’s funding piece, and extended the deadline for when the Social Equity Task Force must report to the legislature until the end of 2022, the Cannabis Observer reports.

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