Today’s passage of Senate Bill 5276 marks an important milestone in hemp legislation for the state of Washington. The bill still requires additional signatures before taking effect, however, most view the remaining process as administrative rather than substantive at this point.

Below are a few highlights regarding the points of interest that seem to come up most frequently.

Hemp in Food, Including Extracts (e.g,. CBD)

The bill allows hemp to be used as food. The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) will have the authority to regulate the processing of hemp as a food ingredient. Although the final version of the bill did not include language that would have prohibited hemp being treated as an adulterant in food, fortunately, language that could have significantly impaired the production of hemp intended for food products also didn’t make it into the bill.

Seeds and Propagule Sourcing

Licensed producers will no longer be limited to Washington or foreign sources for either seeds, clones, or other propagules — an immediate practical effect is the ability of Washington state growers to buy seed from Oregon sellers.

Controlled Substance Exclusion for Hemp

Hemp is specifically excluded from the definition of a controlled substance, and, the definition of hemp includes the derivatives of hemp (e.g., CBD). This means that CBD extracted from hemp will not be a controlled substance under Washington law.

Replaces Industrial Hemp Research Program

The new bill takes effect immediately, however, the pilot program created under the 2014 Farm Bill, and anyone licensed under the pilot program, will have through January 1, 2020, to migrate to the new program. This timeline has not been particularly controversial but is faster than would otherwise be required under the 2018 Farm Bill, which extends state pilot programs up to 12 months following adoption of the new USDA default rules expected early next year.

WSDA Will Be the Regulating Authority

The new rules will be implemented and then administrated by the WSDA, not the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.

New Bill Takes Effect Immediately

Not only will this legislation immediately take effect, but the WSDA is required to implement new regulations under the expedited rulemaking process. The anticipated timeline for new rules is expected to accommodate a 2019 harvest cycle.

Testing Procedures Using Reliable Methods

The WSDA will not be limited to post-decarboxylation — the practical effect will be to greatly expedite the WSDA’s capacity to analyze whether plants are in compliance with the 0.3 percent limit on delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The application of heat during the testing process would not be allowed.

Cross-Pollination, Buffer Zone Eliminated

There will be no minimum required buffer zone between recreational marijuana producers and hemp growers. Instead, the WSDA will consider any credible scientific evidence that may be presented in the future or examples of specific instances of cross-contamination and respond accordingly. The bill specifically vests a first-in-time right with whichever operation was there first in the event that a conflict arises.