In a case of “better late than never,” the Washington Legislature has decided, five years after voters legalized marijuana in the state, to legalize passing a joint.
During the last week of April, Washington lawmakers passed SB 5131, an “omnibus bill” of cannabis laws tackling legal issues around the legality of marijuana in the state sponsored by Republican Sen. Ann Rivers and Democratic Sen. Steven Conway. The bill, as of April 26, was sitting on Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk waiting for his signature. Inslee has 20 days to sign it, but his office declined to comment on whether he might do so.
• Passing a joint would finally become legal under one of the provisions of the omnibus bill. Remember we said, back in 2012, that I-502 was stupidly written? No? Well, we did. Under 502’s language, passing the joint to a friend is a felony offense. This would fix that. Adults could share up to a half-ounce of marijuana, 8 ounces of solid infused products, 36 ounces of infused liquids, or 3.5 grams of concentrates.• The bill directs the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board to study the legalization of recreational home growing. Washington is the only state which has legal marijuana but prohibits growing the stuff. Right now, only patients with medical authorizations can grow. The new law would direct the WSLCB to study the feasibility of allowing recreational home growing, and to publish a report by this December. This would force the state to openly give its reasons why Washingtonians should be the only residents of a legal weed state who aren’t allowed to grow.
• One provision would allow medical marijuana patients to buy cannabis plants and seeds directly from producers. Until the state forced medical marijuana into the recreational cannabis system last year, patients who wanted to grow their own medicine could buy seeds or clones directly from patient collectives. But when the state killed medical marijuana, er, “merged” the two systems, it foolishly provided no legal way for patients to buy seeds or clones, forcing them into the black market.• Another provision would empower the state Department of Agriculture to run an “organic” certification program for marijuana. There are already private companies which issue such green certifications, but having a state-regulated certification would please the companies licensed to grow in Washington. The state still won’t be allowed to use the word “organic,” because that’s a federally controlled term.
• Billboards would no longer be allowed to show pictures of marijuana, nor appeal to children. A provision in the omnibus bill would make it illegal to depict a cannabis plant on a billboard. Also against the law would be cartoon characters, toys, inflatables, or anything “likely to be appealing to youth.”
• Retail operators could own up to five pot shops. State law previously limited owners to three retail licenses. Retail consolidation would continue if Inslee signs the bill.
• An industrial hemp legalization study would begin. Growing hemp is still illegal in Washington, as stupid as that is (502 was very poorly written in this regard, as in so many others). The bill instructs the state Department of Agriculture and the WSLCB to study the feasibility of allowing industrial hemp production.
• Medical marijuana patients from 18 to 21 could legally buy weed. Badly written I-502 sets the limit at 21, even if you have medical papers.