Special session begins, House passes recreational marijuana bill

By | April 29, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Legislature began its 30-day special session at noon on Wednesday, four days after lawmakers adjourned the regular legislative session without passing an operating budget.

The Democrat-controlled House and the Republican majority Senate remain at odds over whether the state needs new revenue as part of the operating budget that funds the state for the next two years and puts additional money into public schools.

Lawmakers are also expected to take up a transportation package and legislation related to school levy reform during the special session.

On Wednesday, the House began special session by passing several bills off the floor. Among them is House Bill 2136, which makes several changes to the state’s legal marijuana market and streamlines taxes.

Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said the bill “updates and modernizes and reforms” a number of provisions in Initiative 502, the ballot measure that legalized marijuana.

City or county bans on pot stores would be subject to a public vote during the general election under the bill.

Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, urged members to reject the proposal. “There are communities that voted no this when the initiative was before them, and they are still voting no today,” he said. “They do not want this to be part of our society.”

The bill passed 70 to 25. Carlyle said negotiations with the Senate are ongoing.

Pot vending machines, drive-thrus would be no-go under bill passed by Senate

By | March 3, 2015 | 0 Comments

The first marijuana vending machine in Washington opened earlier this year at a medical dispensary in Seattle. (Photo by American Green via Twitter.)

The Senate unanimously voted to stamp out marijuana vending machines and drive-throughs in Washington Monday afternoon — currently allowed under a sales loophole under Initiative 502.

SB 5903, sponsored by Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, passed off the Senate floor Monday and heads to the House for hearings.

The bill would make it a misdemeanor to sell marijuana from a vending machine or through a  drive-through window, and would bar the Liquor Control Board from issuing or renewing a license to a retailer using those methods. The current marijuana laws don’t disallow those methods of sale.

At least one marijuana vending machine exists in Washington — a self-service, ID verifying machine issuing medical cannabis products at Seattle Caregivers, a dispensary in South Seattle. According to vending machine company American Green, several marijuana stores in Colorado also have vending machines.

“Part of making the recreational-marijuana market work is keeping tight regulations on the sale and distribution and ensuring responsible use,” Bailey said in a prepared statement. “We don’t sell alcohol from drive-throughs and we should treat marijuana the same way.”

Categories: Marijuana

Veterans say PTSD should qualify for medical marijuana use

By | February 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

Veterans asked lawmakers on Tuesday to back a bill that would add post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the conditions that qualify for the use of medical marijuana. It would be the first mental health condition to qualify.

Cory Kemp, who was blinded, suffered a traumatic brain injury and diagnosed with PTSD after a bomb explosion in Afghanistan, said medical marijuana helped when traditional medicine did not.

Marijuana on the shelf at a medical marijana dispensary. Photo by Ashley Stewart for TVW.

“After trying four pharmaceuticals, and having some pretty negative side effects about 15 months ago I was able to wean myself off that last pharmaceutical. I’ve been using cannabis exclusively, not only have I had greater relief from a lot of the effects of my brain injury and PTSD, I’ve been able to have that relief without the debilitating side effects that I had with those pharmaceuticals that pretty much kept me confined to a chair for the majority of my day,” he said.

Kemp was one of several veterans and others who testified in favor of the bill.

Currently, medical marijuana is available to patients diagnosed with terminal or debilitating medical conditions, including cancer, AIDS, epilepsy and chronic pain. Senate Bill 5379, sponsored by Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, would add Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a qualifying condition. While veterans appeared before the Senate Health Care committee on Tuesday, anyone diagnosed with the condition could qualify.

However, Seth Dawson of the Washington State Psychiatric Association spoke against the bill, saying the research shows that marijuana is not an effective mental health treatment. He was the sole opponent who testified against it.

“We wish we could say that the research bears out the claim that the use of marijuana would be beneficial in this context, but that’s not what the research says,” Dawson said. He said the use of marijuana correlates with worse outcomes and stopping the usage correlated with improved outcomes.

If passed, the bill would be in effect under either bill being considered in the Senate that would regulate the use of medical marijuana. A bill sponsored by Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, passed off the floor last week. Another bill by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, passed out of the Commerce and Labor Committee and was referred to Ways and Means on Tuesday.

*This post has been updated to correct a misspelled name.

Youth drug prevention programs untested after legal marijuana

By | January 26, 2015 | 0 Comments

Legalized marijuana is a new world for youth drug prevention programs, and the data does not yet exist to determine which programs are the most effective, prevention specialists told lawmakers Monday morning.

“There just hasn’t been enough done specifically looking at youth marijuana use… especially in the context of legalized marijuana,” Brittany Rhoades Cooper, an assistant professor in Washington State University’s Department of Human Development, told the Senate Human Services, Mental Health and Housing committee, which heard Senate Bill 5245.

Initiative 502 provides 15 percent of the state’s marijuana excise tax to the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). The agency is required to use 85 percent of that funding for prevention programs that are “evidence-based” and “cost-beneficial.” DSHS is expected to receive $29 million for the 2015-17 biennium, and $52 million for the 2017-19 biennium from marijuana excise taxes.

However, prevention specialists told the committee that the data still need to be gathered on the effectiveness of programs and why they work — especially now with recreational marijuana legal in Washington.

“No programs have ever been tested in the context of legalized marijuana,” said Kevin Haggerty, a professor at the University of Washington School of Social Work.

Senate Bill 5245 would allow DSHS to use the money it gets from Initiative 502 to evaluate drug prevention programs.

“Communities should have the best evidence to do the work,” Haggerty said. “We owe it to our communities to provide a strong menu of options…. and we need to provide programs in the context of legalized marijuana.”

The bill also would delay the requirement that the funded programs have a good cost-benefit analysis until 2020, but it still allows local communities to use money for prevention programs in the meantime.

Cooper added that it was important continue to fund prevention programs while the studies are being done.

If the funding isn’t maintained, “all of the good intended by those dollars will likely fall short, and our communities can’t wait until the research catches up,” she said.

Medical marijuana regulations proposed in two separate bills

By | January 22, 2015 | 0 Comments

Lawmakers have been saying for the past few years that medical marijuana needs clear regulations as the state allows retail marijuana shops, which were made legal by the passage of Initiative 502.

The Senate in 2014 passed a medical marijuana bill written by Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, with a number of amendments by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, but the House did not vote on it.

This session, Rivers and Kohl-Welles once again proposed different bills that would create a medical marijuana system alongside the recreational market.

Rivers introduced Senate Bill 5052 before session. Among the proposed rules are:

  • Establishes a registry for patients and for medical marijuana stores.
  • Barring smoking products and smokable marijuana to be sold as medical products.
  • Exempting medical marijuana products from use tax and sales tax.
  • Allowing medical marijuana patients to have up to six plants — a reduction from the 15 allowed now — and allowing patients to grow their own marijuana.
  • Replacing collective gardens with registered growing cooperatives, where only members could participate with no monetary payment.

Rivers’ original language called for a medical marijuana retail license, but Rivers said Thursday she would change her bill to establish three types of stores: those that sell both medical and recreational; and those that just sell one or the other.

Kohl-Welles earlier this week held a press conference announcing Senate Bill 5519. SB 5519 would phase out the collective gardens and dispensaries and do away with the medical authorization system. The medical products would be available in marijuana I-502 retail stores.

  • Making low-THC, high CBD products tax-free
  • Making available an additional endorsement to show that a store has expertise in medical marijuana.
  • Allowing medical marijuana patients to have up to six plants.
  • Creating a waiver for marijuana patients who need more than six plants. The waiver also would allow for people to purchase of retail marijuana without sales tax.
  • Permitting anyone 21 and older to grow up to six plants or fewer for their own personal use. People may give to one ounce of usable marijuana that they’ve grown to another person without compensation.
  • Would not create a registry for patients.

Kohl-Welles emphasized that her bill shares similarities with Rivers’ bill.

“My colleague on the other side of the aisle, Sen. Ann Rivers, is also working hard on this issue and her legislation has many commonalities with mine,” Kohl-Welles said in a statement. “I anticipate that we will find a way to pass legislation that combines the best of both of our proposals.”

Rivers’ bill was heard Thursday, which also was Medical Cannabis Lobby Day at the Capitol.

Retailers, collective garden organizers, activists and patients testified to Rivers’ bill on Thursday both for and against the bill.

Ryan Day of Federal Way was one of the speakers on Sen. Ann Rivers' medical marijuana bill.

Ryan Day, who grows medical marijuana that stops the seizures of his six-year-old son, Haiden, said that getting rid of the collective garden system would make it difficult to provide his son’s treatment when their plants at home haven’t fully grown.

The type of cannabis that Day grows does not cause a high, which makes it hard to obtain on the recreational market, he said. Day said that he wants to work with lawmakers to create a system that gives options other than recreational marijuana stores for patients to get medicinal cannabis.

“I went to a recreational store. The interior reminded me of the basement in ‘That ’70s Show,’ ” Day said after the meeting.

TVW took video of the press conferences and the public hearing:

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles press conference

Senate Health Care Public Hearing

Sen. Ann Rivers press conference

Marijuana could bring $51 million to 2015-17 general fund

By | February 19, 2014 | 0 Comments

State officials estimated that legalized recreational marijuana could bring in $51 million to the state’s general fund in the 2015-17 biennium.

It’s the first time that the state has included marijuana in its revenue projections, since Initiative 502 passed in 2012, which legalized recreational marijuana, according to the Office of Financial Management.

The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council discussed the estimate, and projections for the next six years at meetings broadcast on TVW Wednesday.

The forecast for the remainder of the 2013-15 biennium showed general fund revenue coming in $30 million higher than in the November forecast, according to the Office of Financial Management. The general fund revenue over this biennium is expected to be $33 billion.

The state’s general fund collections in the following biennium, 2015-17, are projected to be $35.7 billion, an increase of $82 million over the November projection and including the $51 million expected in marijuana taxes.

The rest of that increased forecast was due to slowly growing economy, said Steve Lerch, chief economist of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council.

Lerch told lawmakers Wednesday that council staff has been reluctant before this forecast to include marijuana tax revenues in general fund projections because of uncertainties about the retail stores, including when the the stores would launch and the potential for marijuana businesses to have problems with banks.

The projection includes an assumption that marijuana retail stores would not start until June 2015, Lerch said. Initiative 502 earmarks other revenue from marijuana, such as licensing revenue, to a dedicated marijuana fund, which pays for social and health services and research, he said.

According to OFM, the next revenue forecast is scheduled for release June 18.

Categories: economy, Marijuana

Hemp farming would be legalized under legislation

By | January 30, 2014 | 0 Comments

Washington became a marijuana-friendly state when voters approved Initiative 502 legalizing marijuana. Now, the legislature is talking about making hemp farming legal as well.

Joy Maher shows off her hemp collection at the TVW office.

Two bills were discussed Thursday at the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee that seek to create a licensing system for hemp growers governed by the Dept. of Agriculture.

While Senate Bill 6214 and Senate Bill 5964 are very similar, the first bill requires Washington State University to conduct a study of the net worth of industrial hemp production before licensing the crop. The cost of the study is estimated to be about $850,000.

Supporters of the hemp bill said that the crop is beneficial from an environmental and financial standpoint. The prime sponsor of Senate Bill 6214, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, said that it uses minimal pesticides and helps with erosion control.

She added that it is expected to cause an “explosive” boost in our state’s economy, citing that the U.S. imported $11.5 million worth of hemp products in 2011.

Committee members raised concerns that marijuana could be concealed in hemp fields.

Aimee Warner, the founder of a cannabis beauty line, brought her "hemp" briefcase to the hearing.

However, testifiers in favor of hemp legalization assured that the plants do not only look different – marijuana is thick and bushy and hemp is tall and thin – but cross pollination would also significantly reduce the potency of the plant.

Joy Beckerman Maher, a longtime industrial hemp consultant, who has been pushing for legalization for decades addressed the myth that hemp can give someone a “high.”

“The only feeling you would get is an awful headache,” said Maher.

Hemp is used to make everything from clothing and beauty products to seed oil and ice cream. The U.S. Declaration of Independence was even written on hemp paper.

On a national scale, the Farm Bill recently allowed hemp cultivation projects to be launched for research and state agriculture department in 10 states that have approved hemp production. These include California, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.

No action was taken at the hearing. The Impact will air a special segment about the issue Wednesday.

Gov. Gregoire meets with feds about Washington’s marijuana legalization law

By | November 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire met with Deputy Attorney General James Cole in Washington, D.C. today to discuss the state’s new marijuana legalization law.

Gregoire’s office said the state intends to move ahead with implementation of Initiative 502, which legalizes, taxes and regulates marijuana.

Voters approved the initiative with 55 percent of the vote. Starting on Dec. 6th, it will be legal for adults over 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, but the legal framework to sell marijuana in retail stores won’t be in place for at least a year.

Gregoire asked the Department of Justice to clarify their position on marijuana.

The Associated Press reports that federal officials have not yet made a decision on the issue. Gregoire told officials she wants to know soon if they plan to block the new law before the state begins spending money to implement it.

Categories: Election
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Week 5: Let’s Review

By | February 10, 2012 | 0 Comments

Here’s a look at what we covered this week on the blog and on our daily show, Legislative Review. It airs nightly at 6:30 & 11 p.m. on TVW.

Monday: The House Judiciary committee voted 7-5 to pass the Senate’s version of the same-sex marriage bill. It was the final public hearing on the issue, and more than a dozen supporters and opponents testified. And on the show, we took a look at budget-writing committees that were racing to get bills done before cutoff.

Watch Monday’s edition of Legislative Review.

Tuesday: Senators Derek Kilmer and Jim Kastama held a press conference to give an update on their legislative priorities, citing a number of bills that survived Tuesday’s cutoff deadline. And the House heard a bill that would add certification and taxing requirements to roll-your-own cigarettes machines.

Watch Tuesday’s edition of Legislative Review.

Wednesday: Following more than two hours of debate, the House of Representatives voted to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, 55-43. Check out our photo gallery of the event, and more details of the debate on Wednesday’s show.

Watch Wednesday’s edition of Legislative Review.

Thursday: A joint House and Senate committee held a work session Thursday on Initiative 502, which would license, regulate and tax marijuana sales in Washington state. Following the hearing, the Yes on I-502 campaign held a press conference discussing their approach to the November election. The Senate passed a bill Thursday evening that allows families to stop an autopsy if they have a religious objection to the procedure. And House passed a bill  that extends advertising disclosure requirements to ballot measure campaigns.

Watch Thursday’s edition of Legislative Review.

Friday: Gov. Chris Gregoire and British Columbia’s premier announced an action plan that includes collaboration between the two governments to develop a regional jobs strategy in the green economy, coordinate transportation and energy efficiency. We have a wrap-up of the week’s headlines on Friday’s half-hour edition of Legislative Review at 6:30 p.m. tonight.

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Marijuana initiative heard in joint Senate and House committee

By | February 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

A joint House and Senate committee held a work session Thursday on Initiative 502, which would license, regulate and tax marijuana sales in Washington state. The initiative has collected enough signatures to go before voters in November, unless the Legislature enacts it first.

John McKay, a law professor and former U.S. Attorney, testified in favor of the initiative, saying Washington state needs a “new way to approach a failed policy.” The criminal enforcement of marijuana drives an “enormous flow of money to dangerous drug cartels, gangs and thugs,” said McKay, noting that billions of dollars worth of marijuana is trafficked down I-5 each year.

Retired FBI officer Charles Mandigo said drug dealers can still be arrested and prosecuted under the initiative. If marijuana is sold in stores and not by gangs, it would stem the violence associated with drug turf wars, he said.

Speaking in opposition, Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza said more than 17 million Americans smoke marijuana, and the initiative doesn’t consider the impact on children or their families. “It puts people in an altered state,” he said. “I respect their ability to make that decision as adults. But how are we going to regulate the effect of marijuana on the children around them?”

Snaza said he believes the projected revenue that the state would earn from selling marijuana is “overly inflated.”

Following the hearing, the Yes on I-502 campaign held a press conference discussing their approach to the November election. You can watch the full half-hour video here.

Categories: initiatives
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