Washington State senators held a committee listening to on Tuesday to debate a collection of marijuana reform proposals associated to employment protections, interstate commerce and social fairness within the hashish business. And lawmakers in a Home panel are additionally scheduled to debate companion interstate commerce laws later within the afternoon.
The Senate Labor & Commerce Committee took up the three marijuana proposals because the state works to enhance upon its adult-use market. The panel’s chair, Sen. Karen Keiser (D), is sponsoring the employment-related invoice.
Members didn’t vote on the laws, however the hearings in each chambers deliver the measures a step nearer to advancing within the 2023 session that kicked off on Tuesday.
Underneath Keiser’s invoice, which was pre-filed late final month, employers within the state can be prohibited from discriminating in opposition to most job candidates for off-duty marijuana use or for testing constructive for non-psychoactive THC metabolites.
The laws says that the legalization of adult-use marijuana within the state in 2012 “created a disconnect between potential workers’ authorized actions and employers’ hiring practices,” including that the majority drug assessments solely detect inactive THC metabolites that may be in an individual’s system for weeks after use.
The 2-page invoice would add a brand new part to state statute that may make it “illegal for an employer to discriminate in opposition to an individual in hiring if the discrimination” in the event that they used hashish “off the job and away from the office” or in the event that they check constructive for THC metabolites as a part of employer-mandated drug screening.
There are some caveats to the proposal. For instance, it wouldn’t preclude an employer from utilizing drug assessments that may detect energetic impairment from marijuana.
It additionally says that the reform wouldn’t have an effect on “the rights or obligations of an employer to keep up a drug and alcohol free office, or every other rights or obligations of an employer required by federal legislation or regulation.”
Additional, folks working in constructing or development trades, in addition to these whose jobs would require federal background examine or safety clearance, wouldn’t be coated underneath the laws.
A consultant of a legislation enforcement affiliation testified within the Senate committee listening to that whereas they’re not opposing the laws, they’d wish to see specific language stipulating that officers are exempt from the employment protections as effectively.
Keiser repeatedly reminded witnesses that the invoice is supposed to handle solely pre-employment insurance policies and drug assessments that detect inactive THC metabolites, not any devices which can be scientifically confirmed to detect energetic impairment.
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The committee additionally mentioned a bipartisan invoice from Sen. Ann Rivers (R), with Keiser as a cosponsor, to create a framework for hashish interstate commerce, pending a federal coverage change.
The laws would give the governor of Washington authority to enter into agreements with different authorized states to allow imports and exports between state-licensed hashish companies. Merchandise that come from out-of-state companies can be required to adjust to Washington laws, together with these associated to packaging and labeling.
Nonetheless, it might solely take impact underneath certainly one of two circumstances: 1) if there’s a federal legislation change “to permit for the interstate switch of hashish” between authorized companies, or 2) if the U.S. Division of Justice points an opinion “permitting or tolerating” marijuana commerce throughout state strains.
If both of these circumstances are met, state regulators can be required to supply written discover of the federal coverage change, in addition to any state-level “statutory adjustments essential to authorize the sale, supply, and receipt of hashish” from out-of-state corporations. Regulators would additionally have to undertake vital guidelines for cross-border commerce.
“I feel there are solely 11 states now that haven’t entered into legalization, and so the writing is on the wall from a federal perspective that this shall be transpiring,” the sponsor, Rivers, stated on the listening to.
“What we don’t need is that our hashish companies get frolicked to dry as they look forward to our restricted legislative session to happen once more,” the senator stated. “So this might simply empower the governor—if there may be federal motion and never till there may be federal motion—to have the ability to negotiate to enter into interstate agreements and compacts for the aim of conserving our hashish companies and businessmen and ladies in Washington State functioning and contributing to our economic system.”
The Home Regulated Substances & Gaming Committee can also be contemplating a companion invoice from Rep. Sharon Wylie (D), that panel’s co-chair.
The laws represents the newest state-level try to arrange for eventual interstate hashish commerce, whilst marijuana stays federally prohibited. California’s governor signed an identical measure final yr. Earlier than that, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) signed interstate marijuana commerce laws into legislation in 2019.
On the opposite facet of the nation, New Jersey’s Senate president filed an identical proposal final yr, nevertheless it has not but been enacted.
The Washington Senate committee additionally thought-about laws from Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D), the bulk caucus vice chair, that’s meant to boost the state’s social fairness program for the marijuana business.
It seeks to perform this by means of a number of means, together with altering the best way that regulators are licensed to accepted extra fairness licensees. The Liquor and Hashish Board (LCB) would have the ability to add fairness retailers to this system primarily based on inhabitants tendencies, and people retailers could possibly be positioned in any municipality that enables marijuana companies to function, fairly than being confined to a particular location that the board assigns.
“What’s earlier than us is an try and create a social fairness program that’s practical that can create pathways of alternative,” Saldaña stated at Tuesday’s listening to, including that she hopes that it will likely be”the primary piece of laws that we take motion on this yr within the realm of hashish.”
The invoice would additionally amend the statutory definition of a “disproportionately impacted space” (DIA), which is used to evaluate fairness license functions.
DIA can be outlined as “a census tract inside Washington State the place neighborhood members have been extra more likely to be impacted by the Conflict on Medicine, which is decided utilizing a standardized statistical equation figuring out areas of excessive unemployment, low earnings, and demographic indicators per impacted populations,” in keeping with a abstract.
The laws would additional amend the definition of a social fairness applicant to imply a enterprise with not less than 51 % possession by individuals who meet not less than of two of the next criterion: 1) have lived in a DIA for not less than 5 years between 1980 and 2010, 2) has confronted a cannabis-related arrest, or have a relative who confronted such prosecution and/or 3) earned an earnings previous to submitting the applying that’s lower than the Washington State median.
Earlier than receiving witness testimony, the committee chair stated that the invoice is “on the primary listening to date on goal as a result of it’s necessary to all of us.” She additionally stated that members would end consideration of the fairness laws at a subsequent listening to scheduled for Thursday.
The Home Regulated Substances & Gaming Committee is ready to carry a separate listening to on marijuana interstate commerce on Tuesday night, in addition to a invoice regarding funds for hashish merchandise between processors and retailers.
The truth that the payments are being taken up on the primary day of the 2023 session indicators that legislators view extra marijuana reform as a legislative precedence. Nonetheless, it’s presently unclear when the committees may vote on the proposals and doubtlessly advance them to the ground.
In the meantime, state lawmakers are once more contemplating drug possession penalties and associated points this session.
Following a state Supreme Courtroom choice in February 2021 that invalidated the state’s felony legislation in opposition to drug possession, lawmakers enacted a short lived criminalization coverage that’s set to run out on July 1. Some lawmakers need the state to formalize a coverage of decriminalized possession, however others wish to preserve criminalization.
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Photograph courtesy of Philip Steffan.
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