It’s been five years now since Washington (along with Colorado) paved the way into a new era of cannabis reform – recreational legalization.
After a half-decade, the state has been able to identify some issues that need to be ironed out and officials are proposing a complete overhaul of the current industry standards and laws which is expected to boost minority business ownership, allow growers to increase the size of their crops, and legalize home deliveries for medical cannabis patients.
In an interview with the Associated Press, The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board Director Rick Garza (who coined the term ‘Cannabis 2.0’ in reference to these new changes) explained their plans for the future. “It’s an effort to picture what the legal marijuana market will look like over the next five years, after spending the past five years largely regulating by reaction as the difficulties of building an industry from infancy absorbed the agency’s attention.”
“We’ve typically been so challenged with the issues of the day we haven’t been looking out long-term to determine what the future looks like,” Garza continued.
The Board has been working with other government agencies to ease their workload and be able to focus on more pertinent issues. For example, the responsibility of over regulating cannabis testing lab certification has been outsourced to the Department of Ecology, and the Department of Financial Institutions is now overseeing the licensing process.
Now, the board can work on market regulation, and here are some of the issues they will focus on in the coming months:
- Seed-to-sale system – Washington is deciding whether to continue their current seed-to-sale tracking program (which has faced backlash for software issues that have majorly interfered with business operations), or switch to a system where business owners self-report their transactions and are later audited.
- Out-of-state exports – The state is debating whether or not to allow out of state export of cannabis products, should cannabis become federally legal in the near future. They would be following in the footsteps of neighboring Oregon, who passed similar legislation earlier this year.
- Social Equity Program – Long criticized for what many viewed as biased ownership opportunities, Washington is launching this new program in an effort to encourage minorities, women, and military veterans to open more cannabis businesses. This legislation includes grants from the Department of Commerce totaling a minimum of $100,000 annually.
- Home Delivery – Washington is one of the only legal or medical states that doesn’t allow home delivery of cannabis products. This bill would legalize home delivery from licensed growers that are operating in the “tier one” category, which limits them to 2,000 square feet or less of cultivation space. Growers will be able to sell directly to the state’s 36,000+ registered medical cannabis patients.
- Business Expansion for Growers – Tier one growers have long been limited, both physically and financially, by their 2,000 square foot growing space maximum. Many bought into the first tier because it was all they could afford at the time, and have now been hamstrung by their small size. This bill will allow them to expand twice, first to 5,000 square feet, then up to 8,000 after an undetermined period of time.
All this makes 2020 a very important year for the Cannabis market, not just in Washington but the entire United States. After 5 years of legalization, everyone has a better idea of what works and what doesn’t, and we have a better overall picture of how legal cannabis markets develop over time.
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