On the First Day of The 2023 Legislative Session, Washington Legislators Will Tackle Marijuana Interstate Commerce, Employment Protections, and Equity.

On the first day of the 2023 legislative session, Washington legislators will tackle marijuana interstate commerce, employment protections, and equity.

Committee hearings were held in the House and Senate of Washington State on Tuesday to consider a package of legislation to amend the state’s marijuana laws including safeguards for workers, cross-border sales, and social justice.

In an effort to strengthen the adult-use market, the state’s Senate Labor and Commerce Committee has been reviewing three marijuana proposals. Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Calif.) is leading the charge on this employment-related bill as the panel’s head.

Separately, the House Committee on Regulated Substances and Gambling heard bills on the interstate commerce of marijuana and on the transfer of funds for the purchase of cannabis from growers to distributors.

Although the hearings in both chambers did not result in a vote, they did move the bills forward in the 2023 session that began on Tuesday.

Safeguards for The Workplace

As a result of Keiser’s late-month pre-filed measure, most businesses in the state would be barred from rejecting applicants only because they tested positive for non-psychoactive THC metabolites, or because they used marijuana while off the clock.

Legalization of adult-use marijuana in the state in 2012 “created a disconnect between prospective employees’ legal activities and employers’ hiring practises,” according to the bill. Most drug tests only detect inactive THC metabolites, which can remain in a person’s system for weeks after use, so this could be a problem.

The two-page bill would add a new section to the state statute making it “unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in hiring if the discrimination” occurs because of the individual’s “off-duty and away-from-work” cannabis use or because of a positive test for THC metabolites in an employer-required drug test.

However, there are a few restrictions on the idea. For instance, it would not prevent a company from implementing drug testing that may identify the presence of active marijuana impairment.

It also states that “the rights or duties of an employer to maintain a drug and alcohol-free workplace, or any other rights or obligations of an employer required by federal law or regulation, would not be affected by the change.”

Further, the law would not apply to those whose jobs require a federal background check or security clearance, such as those in the building and construction sectors.

During a Senate committee hearing, a representative of a law enforcement organisation stated that while the organisation is not opposed to the measure, it would like to see wording stipulating that officers are free from employment rights as well.

Keiser frequently emphasised to witnesses that the bill’s focus is on pre-employment rules and drug tests that detect inactive THC metabolites, and not on any devices that are scientifically proven to detect active impairment.

Commercial Activity Across State Lines

In addition, the committee reviewed a bill proposed by Republican Senator Ann Rivers and cosponsored by Keiser to establish a framework for the interstate commerce of cannabis until a change in federal legislation.

The governor of Washington would be able to negotiate trade agreements with other legal jurisdictions to facilitate the movement of cannabis products between states. Washington state law mandates conformity with all packaging and labelling requirements, and this includes laws enacted from outside the state.

A change in federal legislation “to allow for the interstate transport of cannabis” between lawful enterprises or an opinion “allowing or tolerating” marijuana commerce over state lines are both necessary for this to become a reality.

A formal notice of the change in federal policy and any “statutory adjustments necessary to enable the sale, delivery, and receipt of cannabis” from out-of-state enterprises would be required of state regulators under any scenario. For international trade to flourish, regulators must also provide the appropriate guidelines.

The bill’s proponent, Rivers, stated at the hearing, “I think there are only 11 states today that have not moved into legalisation, and so the writing is on the wall from a federal standpoint that this will be transpiring.”

A senator expressed concern that the state’s cannabis firms would be left in limbo until the next short parliamentary session. To keep Washington’s cannabis industry and its entrepreneurs afloat and contribute to the state’s economy, “this would basically enable the governor to be able to negotiate to join into interstate accords and compacts,” as the bill’s text puts it.

Rep. Sharon Wylie (D-CA), who is also co-chair of the House Committee on Regulated Substances and Gaming, has introduced a similar bill.

While marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, this bill is the latest attempt by individual states to lay the groundwork for a regulated market in cannabis. A year ago, the governor of California signed a bill with very similar language. Prior to that, in 2019, interstate marijuana commerce legislation was approved into law by Democratic Oregon Governor Kate Brown.

The president of the Senate in New Jersey submitted a similar bill last year, but it has not yet been passed into law.

Equal Treatment of All Members of Society

Senator Rebecca Saldana (d), the Vice Chair of The Majority Caucus, Introduced a Bill to Improve Washington’s Social Equity Programme for The Marijuana Business.

It Aims to Do so Through a Variety of Measures, One of Which Is to Modify the Authorities Regulators Have to Approve New Equity Licensees. the Liquor and Cannabis Board (lCB) Could Incorporate New Equity Retailers Into the Programme in Response to Shifting Demographics, and Those Stores Could Be Situated in Any Municipality that Permits the Operation of Marijuana Enterprises.

Saldaa Said at The Hearing on Tuesday that She Hopes This Would Be the “first Piece of Legislation that We Take Action on This Year in The Arena of Cannabis” and That “what We Have Before Us Is an Attempt to Construct a Social Justice Programme that Is Functional that Will Offer Pathways of Opportunity.”

In Addition, the Measure Seeks to Revise the Statutory Definition of A “disproportionately Impacted Area” (dia), Which Is Used to Evaluate Equity Licence Applications.

By One Definition, a Dia Is “a Census Tract Within Washington State Where Community Members Were More Likely to Be Impacted by The War on Drugs,” and This Would Be Determined by “a Standardised Statistical Equation Identifying Areas of High Unemployment, Low Income, and Demographic Indicators Consistent with Impacted Populations,” as The Summary Puts It.

Under the Proposed Legislation, a Business in Which at Least Half of The Shareholders Meet at Least Two of The Following Criteria Would Be Considered a Social Equity Applicant. You Must Either: 1) Have Lived in A Dia for At Least Five Years Between 1980 and 2010; 2) Have Been Arrested for Cannabis-Related Charges or Have a Family Member Who Has Been Arrested for Cannabis-Related Charges; And/or 3) Have Earned Less than The Median Income in Washington State in The Year Prior to Submitting the Application.

The Committee Chair Stated that The Bill Was Placed “on the First Hearing Date on Purpose Because It Is Essential to All of Us” Prior to Hearing Testimony from The Witnesses. She added that A Follow-Up Hearing on The Equity Legislation Would Be Held on Thursday, Where Members Would Conclude Their Deliberations.

The Proposals’ Consideration on Day One of The 2023 Session Shows that Lawmakers Consider Further Marijuana Reform to Be an Important Issue. the Exact Timing of When the Committees Will Vote on The Bills and Possibly Bring Them to The Floor Is Still Unknown.

Meanwhile, This Session’s State Legislators Are Revisiting the Topic of Drug Possession Sanctions and Other Related Topics.

When the State’s Felony Drug Possession Statute Was Struck Down by The State Supreme Court in February 2021, Lawmakers passed a temporary criminalization policy that would last until July 1, 2021. Legislators are split on whether or not to formally decriminalise possession within the state.

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