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Here’s what just changed in Washington state marijuana laws

PUBLISHED: MAY 23, 2017, 12:10 PM

A week ago, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed an omnibus marijuana bill, containing many changes to the regulations put in place in 2013, after Washington voters legalized recreational marijuana sales in 2012.

Senate Bill 5131 passed the Senate on April 20 with a vote of 44-5, and the House that same day, 63-33.

What developments does this marijuana mega-bill contain? Here’s our wrap-up of the major changes that could affect how Washingtonians and visitors experience legal weed in The Evergreen State.

Sharing your bowl is now legal

Believe it or not, the 2012 law that legalized recreational marijuana in the state forbade sharing a single leaf of one’s stash. Now, anyone 21 years or older can “deliver” to another adult up to one-half ounce of flower, eight ounces of infused solid edible, 36 ounces of infused liquid, or three and one-half grams of concentrates, as long as they don’t charge money. However, keep the packaging, because according to the law, “The marijuana or marijuana product must be in the original packaging as purchased from the marijuana retailer.”

Medical marijuana card-holders can buy seeds and clones directly from producers

Previously, producers could sell to collectives and some providers, but not directly to patients. This change will make it clear that medical marijuana patients are not skirting the law by growing their plants from seed.

Still no recreational home growing, but the state is required to study the possibility

Under the bill, the state liquor and cannabis board must conduct a study of options for “the legalization of marijuana plant possession and cultivation by recreational marijuana users” and report on their findings by December 1, 2017. Interestingly, the wording of this section states, “In conducting the study, the state liquor and cannabis board must consider the federal guidelines provided by the Cole memorandum.”

Moving toward organic-grade standards and certification

With this legislation, Washington becomes the first state to attempt to create a certification program with organic-level standards for cultivators.

While cannabis producers and retailers would still be forbidden to use the word “organic” to describe their products, the new bill sets up a system of growing standards that will attempt to match “to the extent practicable” the federal Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program. This system will include certification for producers and processors, inspections, testing and enforcement.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture says on their website that they anticipate it will take “several months” to develop the program, “including the marketing claim that may be used for qualifying products… WSDA officials will begin the rule making process for the new program after the bill goes into effect. The process will include opportunities for public comment. Anyone wishing to participate as part of an advisory board should contact the WSDA Organic Program at organic@agr.wa.gov for consideration.”

The Organic Cannabis Association sent out a statement congratulating Washington for taking this first step towards providing organic certification for cannabis cultivators. “The State of Washington has truly taken a leadership role by recognizing the importance of transparency and consumer protection in the cannabis industry,” says the statement. “We firmly believe this is the first of many states to come.”

Dispensaries must limit their advertising to reduce potential appeal to youth

  • Billboards and other external signs can only contain the name of the business, the address and “the type or nature of the business.”
  • Billboards and other signage cannot contain any images of plants, products, or images that might be appealing to children: toys, inflatables, or movie or cartoon characters.
  • No transit advertising – bus stops, taxi stands, train stations or airports.
  • No advertising to people who live outside of Washington.
  • No commercial mascots (inflatable tube displays, persons in costume, or wearing, holding, or spinning a sign with a marijuana-related commercial message or image).

A few more items

– Retail licensees can have five locations. (The previous limit was three.)
– No one under 21 can work at a marijuana dispensary or retail shop.
– The Department of Agriculture and the state liquor and cannabis board are required to set up a study into the feasibility and practicality of industrial hemp production.
– Businesses can enter into licensing and trademark agreements, and exempt trade secrets from disclosure.
– To grant a license to grow on tribal land, the liquor and cannabis board must receive consent from the federally recognized tribe associated with the land.
– Businesses who receive a license but don’t open a store within two years may have to forfeit their license.

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