Washington House & Senate Passed Different Versions of SB 5131

Written by Ammon J. Ford, Attorney at Gleam Law, PLLC.

The Washington State Legislature had over two dozen bills related to Cannabis to consider this legislative season. Most of them are dead. At least one,  SB 5131, passed both the Washington State House of Representatives and Senate yesterday. It passed the Senate by a unanimous vote on March 7th, and the Senate on April 11, 74 yeas to 24 nays.

The two versions passed by each house, however, are different. Before it becomes law SB 5131 still must go through concurrence, which could take several months to complete, and be signed by Governor Inslee.

In concurrence, the two houses must debate and negotiate the changes made to the bill after it passed the Senate. They must agree on one draft of the bill for it to continue. If they cannot agree on which changes to keep and which to abandon then they will likely form a Conference Committee made up of both senators and representatives. The committee will discuss the changes and reconcile the two versions. If even the committee cannot find consensus then the bill will not become law.

Presuming that the House and Senate are able to resolve the differences, the final barrier to becoming law is up to the governor. Once the bill is sent to the governor he may sign it into law, veto it, or veto part of it. When asked for comment, Governor Inslee’s office declined to take any official position on the bill, but also did not give any indication that a veto is likely. If you would like to express your support or opposition to any part of the bill you can contact Governor Inslee’s office directly.

The concurrence process may result in significant changes to SB 5131, but, as it stands, the following changes to Washington Cannabis law appear likely:

Advertising Changes:

  • Outdoor billboard advertisements may only be used by retail establishments and may only display the retailer’s name, nature of the business, and provide directions to the retailer’s location.
  • Other than retail billboards, most outdoor advertisements are banned.
  • Reinstates limitations on the size and number of signs attached to retail building facades–retailers will be allowed only two signs no larger than 1,600 sq. in.
  • Prohibits outdoor advertisements utilizing human or human-like mechanisms, including sign twirlers, people wearing sandwich board signs, mascots, or people dressed in costume.
  • Advertising targeted to youth by use of objects or characters that are appealing to children are prohibited.
  • Print advertisements must include a disclaimer that cannabis may only be purchased by people 21 years old or older.
  • No licensee may target advertisements to those outside of the state.
  • Grants the WSLCB authority to regulate any outdoor advertising of licensees.
  • Allows local governments to enact outdoor advertising regulations that are more restrictive than state law.
  • Authorizes cannabis businesses to enter into licensing agreements related to trademarks, trade names, trade secrets, technology, or other proprietary information.
  • Marijuana regulations adopted by the WSLCB must be at least as restrictive as those applied to tobacco products.

Medical Marijuana:

  • Authorizes licensed producers to sell immature plants, clones, and seeds to medical marijuana patients, cooperatives and researchers.
  • Allows adult individuals to share limited quantities of marijuana products with other adults, provided that the sharing is purely a noncommercial gift with no expectation of payment in any form.

Licensing Changes:

  • Requires the WSLCB to give tribes and port authorities the same legal notices and rights given to towns, cities, and counties in relation to pending and issued licenses.
  • Prohibits the WSLCB to issue licenses for licensees located in Indian country without the prior concent of the federally recognized tribe associated with that location.
  • Eliminates the competitive, merit-based application process for retail licenses
  • Increases the number of retail licenses that can be held from three to five total.
  • Revokes a retail license for any licensee that fails to open a retail store within a specified window after the license issued.
  • Requires the LCB to review and report demographic data of licensees regarding race, ethnicity, and gender.
  • Exempts specific types of cannabis-related information from disclosure under the Public Records Act, such as trade secrets, technology, and proprietary information.

Product Regulation Changes:

  • Creates a regulatory and licensing system for producing and processing marijuana-infused edibles, administered by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA)
  • Creates a voluntary program for the certification and regulation of organic cannabis products, administered by the WSDA.

Check back to this page regularly for updates on legislative developments of SB 5131 and other cannabis legislation.