Many of us are not fully aware of the various laws and rules entwined in Washington cannabis policy until those laws affect us. Even fewer are aware we can be part of the process of policy-making. In fact, it’s easier than it may seem to get involved. Government affairs consultant Brooke Davies hosted our second-ever Education Hour in December to highlight cannabis policy and compliance.
Beginning in the cannabis industry as a budtender, Brooke moved up the ranks to management. From there, she realized there was a lack of input from the cannabis industry and community in i502 rules and regulations. This led her to where she is now. Thanks to Brooke, we were able to gain a better understanding of i502 laws and rules and what we can do to influence the cannabis policy process.
Law vs. Rule
Laws in Washington are given the name RCW (Revised Code of Washington). A rule is called a WAC (Washington Administrative Code). Before there can be a rule, though, a law has to be established.
The state of Washington operates on a biennium, meaning lawmakers set the state budget for every two years. The first year of the biennium (long session) is 105 days, this is where lawmakers write the budget. The following year (short session) is only 60 days, this is where they come back to make any adjustments. A Washington cannabis policy bill must pass through the House Commerce and Gaming Committee, the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee, their respective fiscal committees (if there is a fiscal note on the bill), and a floor vote in both chambers. If the bill makes it all the way through both the House and the Senate, from there it goes to the Governor’s desk where he can either veto the bill or sign it into law.
Once a bill becomes a law, the state gives the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) statutory authority to make rules — or WACs — to ensure the law is followed. Unlike RCWs, the LCB decides on WACs year-round, so they are constantly updating.
Get Involved in Washington Cannabis Policy
WACs are where we have an opportunity to directly impact rules and regulations. The LCB holds public hearings and makes all information on WACs readily available. Plus, they openly invite public involvement. But not everyone is aware of this or has enough free time to attend hearings. Luckily, they have a site with all their information and you can sign up to be email-notified for hearings and proceedings (and even submit comments via email!).
It’s important to know the three-step process of making a WAC to know where and how we can have input:
- The LCB files a CR-101 (a.k.a. preproposed statement of inquiry). Since the LCB does not propose draft language during this stage, the public can freely and easily submit comments.
- The LCB files a CR-102 (a.k.a. proposed rule-making) which produces draft language. During this stage, it’s most effective for the public to give specific feedback (as opposed to broad comments) that follows the draft language. If a rule changes during this stage as a result of input, the process repeats and the LCB files a supplemental CR-102. Stages one and two last about three months each and include public hearings.
- The LCB files a CR-103 (a.k.a. rule-making order) which adopts a rule that goes into effect 90 days later.
With each stage, having an input gets more difficult, so it’s better to get involved sooner than later.
What to do Next
So what can you do to get involved in Washington cannabis policy? First, it’s important to know and contact your local lawmakers, LCB officers, and people working in the industry. These are the people who can propose bills to legislature.
From there, don’t hesitate to participate in the rule-making process with the LCB. Not only do they want us to be more involved, but they make all their information and hearings public. They also allow easy access to involvement with the ability to sign up for notifications and submit comments via email.
Participation is especially important because 22% of our state’s population lives somewhere with a ban on legal cannabis. Certain lawmakers from those areas propose bills every year to further restrict or even end i502. But just as we were able to collectively pass i502 in the first place, we can continue to have a positive influence on cannabis policy by staying informed and involved!
Check out the full Education Hour