Mixing and mashing to ease strain on pot issues

Lawmakers are trying to sort through an excess of ideas on how to better regulate pot in Washington state.
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Medical pot: regulatory merger with the state's recreational system?

Lawmakers are trying to sort through an excess of ideas on how to better regulate pot in Washington state.

It's a Washington House bill that likely will be mangled, sliced, diced and Cuisinart-ed into one or more legislative smoothies.

Eighteen House marijuana bills have been put together in one, mainly to avoid a piecemeal approach to marijuana issues. Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Enumclaw and chair of the House Commerce & Gaming Committee, and Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, the committee's ranking GOP member, sponsored the consolidated bill.

"I can't hold (18) different bill hearings," Hurst said. And, he said, "We wanted a unified approach."

The purpose of a two-day hearing that began Monday is to gather public feedback on all marijuana regulatory issues at once. The hearing continues at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in Olympia.

Hurst said he doesn't support all the individual bills, introduced by nine different House members, which went into the consolidated legislation. But he said each concept should have a chance to be discussed.

For now, the House's consolidated legislation includes duplicative and even contradictory planks that would have to be modified or rejected. The measure covers such topics as how to allocate marijuana tax revenue; a proposed requirement that local governments hold referendums if they want to ban marijuana sales in their own jurisdictions; using cannabis-based substances for health and beauty aids, and even repealing the legalization of pot.

In 2012, Washingtonians approved an initiative for the legalization of recreational pot with 56 percent of the votes. Since then, the Legislature — working with the Washington Liquor Control Board, the administrator of recreational marijuana regulatory system — has been mulling and passing legislation to help control the markets for pot. The House and Senate have numerous companion bills in play this session to tackle the same issues, including trying to bring the medical pot regulations to the same strict standards as the recreational marijuana industry.

The biggest changes, Hurst said, will be in the overall medical pot and recreational pot markets. "We'll be reconciling these markets as a whole," he said. Hurst hopes that most of the work to regulate the state's marijuana markets will be finished by the end of this session.

In the Senate, Sens. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, and Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, are huddling to mesh their two bills to put the recreational and medical marijuana systems into one universal regulatory network. Then the House and Senate will have to do more mixing and blending of their ideas before they can send any major changes to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.


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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at johnstang_8@hotmail.com and on Twitter at @johnstang_8