I completely liked Washington State once I lived there. I lived in Seattle for seven years and was one of the first attorneys in the state to tackle medical hashish enterprise shoppers in 2010 after which once more with grownup use shoppers in 2012 when I-502 handed. Our regulation agency is a pioneer in the hashish house, however notably in Washington State the place our hashish follow first started a few years in the past.
I additionally suppose Washington has a prime notch hashish program in the case of its laws. They are clear and complete, establishing licensees for fulfillment as business understands what it’s getting most of the time from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (“LCB“). Of course, there are ambiguities with Washington’s administrative code and hashish (like with all states), and there all the time shall be as a result of totally different licensing analysts will give competing interpretations of the regulation and guidelines on every part from label evaluate submissions to analyses of true events of curiosity. I definitely don’t agree with each LCB rule on the books, however I respect the heck out of Washington for the hashish program it created and has maintained over the years.
All of the foregoing is why I used to be extremely excited and honored to testify at a Washington State House Commerce and Gaming Committee Legislative Work Session on March 26. You can watch the complete listening to here. I moved to Los Angeles in 2017 and have actually targeted on California’s hashish scene for some time now, however I sustain with Washington’s hashish market and our agency continues to take care of its hashish follow out of Seattle.
When I used to be contacted by the Office of Program Research for the House of Representatives to talk at this Work Session, I used to be intrigued by the subject proper off the bat. My expertise with Washington is that its market is fairly small (however comparatively mighty) and that the state actually had no real interest in dropping some of its protecting obstacles to entry (like that pesky six-month residency requirement for possession) and different purple tape that retains licensees underneath “tied house” guidelines. The particular subject right here was “Examining the future of the cannabis industry in Washington state,” with an emphasis on how the state can arrange its present licensees for the repeal of federal prohibition; and particularly, what can the state do, and what it ought to take into account, to make its licensees aggressive for impending nationwide and worldwide marketplaces.
Back in 2016, I did a TedX Talk on Orcas Island relating to whether or not state authorized hashish was truly creating “Big Marijuana” (that speak now has over 119,000 views). Washington State is now instantly grappling with the points I touched on in my speak, however in its Washington approach, the state is being cautious and considerate in the way it approaches the nationwide stage. I finally suppose the Committee needed to listen to from me as a result of I’ve deep enterprise and regulatory experiences in a number of hashish states at this level spanning a decade (notably in Washington and California, and the two couldn’t be extra totally different).
Some of the sub-points the Committee examined throughout this session have been business traits, how one can mitigate future monopolies whereas being enterprise pleasant, vertical integration, the residency challenge, and social fairness (amongst others). After working in California’s hashish market, my recommendation to the Committee throughout the listening to was to drop the six-month residency requirement. In some ways, that residency requirement is the final barrier that’s maintaining out massive, reliable companies from actually getting into Washington (apart out of your run-of-the mill, convoluted IP licensing agreements or different third social gathering “service” agreements with licensees that very seemingly violate Washington hashish legal guidelines irrespective of the way you slice them).
If Washington desires to be as aggressive as potential, it has to drop the cottage cloak round possession in some unspecified time in the future– and eliminating it for financiers simply isn’t sufficient. I additionally urged that Washington comply with California with a state-primarily based organic processing and label program in addition to an appellations program (given Washington’s sturdy outside cultivation tradition and its present wine business predominantly east of the Cascades offering the blueprint). And I advisable that the state actually research social equity programs throughout the nation (together with in Los Angeles) which have had failure in addition to success in order that the state can actually attempt to set the gold normal in that robust area.
I touched on native management too, particularly relating to not letting massive hashish operators get too massive (I additionally urged the creation of a distribution license if the state is actually apprehensive about verticality.) Washington is a state the place the LCB will license an applicant despite the fact that that applicant could not have the full blessing of their metropolis or county. While it’s nice to safe a state license, that privilege is finally meaningless in case your metropolis or your county gained’t assist you to open your doorways (aspect observe: my agency fought the City of Lacey for years over its native medical hashish bans, and it’s extremely onerous to beat native authorities as a result of of their overwhelmingly sturdy police powers).
If Washington is really involved about multi-state operators or the Altria’s of the world going gang busters inside its borders, the state ought to look at stronger native controls (simply ask California and Oregon) the place the locals will certainly guarantee a tighter grip on 1) who’s coming into their communities and a couple of) what number of operators can arrange store (by native approval schemes that can embody zoning, aggressive licensing contests or lotteries, improvement agreements, and so on.). Some native management already exists in Washington State, however it may stand to enhance and/or grow to be extra subtle.
I’ve little doubt that Washington will ultimately be a state that may rock the stage in the U.S. hashish market and past–the state is simply too sensible and too skilled in the hashish business to not revise the legal guidelines and guidelines that served it properly when the Cole Memo was in place underneath a really totally different Department of Justice. Washington realizes that if it stays the approach it’s now, it can solely ever be so massive and so profitable in comparison with different powerhouse states like California, Florida, New York and Nevada.
Given this strong dialogue with the Commerce & Gaming Committee, I get the feeling that main change is on the horizon in some unspecified time in the future for the Evergreen State. Hopefully, this can be sure that Washington is amongst the group of states that drives nationwide traits on cultivation, distribution, product and model improvement and hashish tourism.