Big News Out of Olympia Washington

The big news out of Olympia this week was that the legislature passed SB 6206, the new industrial hemp law in Washington which legalized hemp! But, what does that mean? What is the difference between hemp and marijuana? Can I finally start that new hempcrete business I’ve been dreaming about?

What this law does do:

  1. Creates a pilot program. It creates a government supervised pilot program for industrial hemp. The Department of Agriculture (DoA) will write rules to license private entities to grow, process, and sell industrial hemp ONLY as part of the industrial hemp research program. The DoA will maintain complete authority to oversee and regulate the program.
  2. Defines “Industrial Hemp” as any part of the cannabis plant that contains a THC/THCA concentration of less than 0.3% by dry weight.
  3. Authorizes the DoA to issue licenses Licenses to grow and process industrial hemp will issue according to how the DoA defines the “goals of the department’s industrial hemp research program,” including preventing former felons from becoming licensed, and determining the location, acreage, and the number of licenses. The DoA’s rational discretion will determine most of the details.
  4. Commissions a thorough industrial hemp report. Washington State University (WSU) will spend the next year studying industrial hemp worldwide, both the science and the political policies, to determine whether it is a viable cash crop for Washington’s farmers. This section may be the most significant portion of the bill. This report should include findings and recommendations derived from the best practices, successes, and failures of the entire world’s hemp production. A well crafted and credible report could influence the future of industrial hemp as a large-scale agricultural product in the US.

What this Law does not do:

  1. Legalize hemp for human consumption. None of the hemp grown under this law may be intended for food. There may be some wiggle room, though. Industry insiders already successfully lobbied the legislature to deregulate “cannabis health and beauty aids” with .3% THC content or less, and they are now sold over the counter anywhere within the state.
  2. Deregulate hemp for anybody to grow. Only licensed growers are allowed to grow, process, market, or sell hemp and hemp products.
  3. Allow hemp-based CBD oil production for medical marijuana patients. CBD probably won’t have any help benefits if you don’t consume it, and no hemp under SB 6206 may be intended for human consumption.
  4. Authorize the Department of Health (DoH) or the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) to participate. All current cannabis producers, processors, and retailers are regulated by the LCB, and all medical marijuana will soon be under the purvue of the DoH. There is no indication that the DoA intends to include their sister agencies, or any businesses licensed by them, to participate.
  5. WSU will publically present its report to the legislature in January 2017. Hopefully, the scientific, historical, economic, and strategic findings of that report will help the state better understand the opportunities and benefits of industrial hemp. We can expect a lot of industrial hemp policy and regulatory changes over the next year.

replacement law in Summer 2017 that will broaden and loosen Washington’s hemp laws.