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Washington Legislature Considers Bills to Help Growing Marijuana Industry


Much of the focus in Olympia is on K-12 education and satisfying a state Supreme Court mandate that Washington spend more money on public schools. That would take some of the burden for funding schools away from local property taxes.

But marijuana has been on the agenda too. The state is still making adjustments to the system for regulating and taxing it. We’ll talk about that later with the head of the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board.

About 30 marijuana-related bills were introduced in the legislature this year. Only about a handful are still active.

For example, one bill approved by a House committee on Tuesday would require school districts to allow children who qualify to use medical marijuana to ingest it on school property. State law already allows districts the option to let students take marijuana medication in their buildings or on their buses. The state says several dozen children are registered as cannabis patients. Medical marijuana consultant Sarah Rasor testified at a hearing that many more parents would sign up their children if they could.

“There’s a silent demographic that’s being kind of missed right now, not just the 57 children that are already registered as cannabis patients that really deserve this mainstream schooling," Rasor said. "But all of the parents are scared to register because of complications possibly with CPS or with other government or legislation that might provide criminal penalties for what they’re doing. And I think it’s really important to protect parents that are trying to not only save their children, but give them an education so that they can combat the world later.”

That bill has already passed the Senate and has cleared its first hurdle in the House.

Many of the marijuana bills originate in the House Commerce and Gaming Committee, which is chaired by Rep. David Sawyer (D-Pierce County).

Doug interviews David Sawyer  

That’s Representative David Sawyer, chairman of the House Commerce and Gaming Committee. He referred to the uncertainty with the new Trump administration and whether it would allow Washington to continue allowing the use of marijuana, even though it’s against federal law.

We asked Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson about that during his visit to Spokane last Friday. He said if the federal government says no to the recreational use of marijuana, he will fight back.
“We defend and enforce state law," Ferguson said. "So the voters approved marijuana legalization, as you know, in 2012. We are defending and enforcing that and that includes making clear to the federal government that if they, the federal government, try to stop Washington state from moving forward that I’ll resist that and I’ll resist that in the courts if necessary. I’ve sent a letter to the attorney general, Attorney General Sessions, requesting a meeting to talk about the issue of marijuana legalization and the governor has joined me in that letter. Our goal is to have that conversation and persuade them to let Washington do what it wants to do.”

He says there had been no answer to his letter, as of last Friday.

And now for more on the growth of the marijuana industry. We’re joined by Rick Garza, who is the director of Washington’s Liquor and Cannabis Board. I asked him about the public’s perception of marijuana.

   7:25     “Well, I think it depends on…to adhere to that Cole memorandum.”

Rick Garza is the director of Washington’s Liquor and Cannabis Board.