A bill to allow interstate marijuana commerce in Washington State is officially heading to the governor’s desk.
The House approved the Senate-passed legislation from Sen. Ann Rivers (R) on Wednesday, but members adopted a minor amendment that required concurrence from the opposite chamber.
That happened on Friday, meaning the bill is now on its way to Gov. Jay Inslee (D) for his signature.
The measure would allow the governor to enter into agreement with other legal cannabis states, pending a federal policy change “to allow for the interstate transfer of cannabis” or a federal Justice Department opinion “allowing or tolerating” marijuana commerce across state lines.
If Inslee signs the proposal into law, that would mean all three coastal states on the West would be positioned to allow instate imports and exports of cannabis. Oregon was the first state to take the step in 2019, followed by California last year.
The Washington bill stipulates that if either of the two federal conditions are met, state regulators would be required to provide a written notice of the policy change, as well as any state-level “statutory changes necessary to authorize the sale, delivery, and receipt of cannabis” from out-of-state companies.
Under California’s policy, however, the state attorney general could also trigger the implementation regardless of federal considerations. In January, state regulators requested that Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) prepare that guidance.
In Washington, regulators would also need to adopt rules that would be necessary for marijuana imports and exports. However, authority to actually enter agreements with other states would fall exclusively with the governor.
Products imported from out-of-state businesses would be required to comply with Washington regulations, including those concerning packaging and labeling.
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“Washington producers, who can compete with anyone on price and quality, suffer from a lack of market access,” Burl Bryson, executive director of the Cannabis Alliance, which worked with Alliance for Sensible Markets and Washington Sun and Craft Growers Association on the legislature, told Marijuana Moment on Friday.
“While across the nation there are emerging medical and adult use markets where cannabis is more difficult and expensive to grow,” he said. “This bill prepares the state to participate the moment that commerce between legal markets is possible, which we believe will be sooner than people realize.”
On the other side of the country, New Jersey’s Senate president filed a similar interstate proposal last year, but it has not yet been enacted.
Also last year, a federal appellate court ruled that Maine’s law prohibiting non-residents from owning medical marijuana businesses in the state violated the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Some experts believe the same rationale invalidating the residency restrictions comes into play with state-level bans on marijuana imports and exports.
Disallowing imports and exports of medical cannabis between consenting states could be construed as similarly protectionist and unconstitutional, the thinking goes.
In November, an Oregon marijuana business filed a lawsuit in federal court, declaring that the state’s current ban on cannabis exports and imports to and from other states violates the Constitution.
Meanwhile, Washington lawmakers in both chambers also recently approved legislation to promote psilocybin research, though the versions need to be reconciled, as the House adopted an amendment providing for a pilot program to authorize access to the psychedelic for clinical studies.
Another bill to prevent employers from discriminating against job applicants based on marijuana use has also cleared both chambers; however, the Senate on Friday declined to concur with House amendments and asked the opposite chamber to abandon the revisions.
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