Washington Hemp

Washington Governor Jay Inslee recently killed a bill legalizing industrial hemp for research purposes. Senate Bill 6206 legalizes hemp cultivation for research, and it appears truly educational in nature, rather than commercial.

SB 6206 passed unanimously in the Washington State House of Representatives, and 48 to 1 in the State Senate. Governor Inslee vetoed the bill for purely political reasons — namely, holding it hostage until the State legislature convenes on a budget. But the legislature wasn’t having any of Inslee’s political guff and, in response, by a two-thirds vote overrode his veto of the hemp legalization bill, making it law.

SB 6206 provides as follows:

Industrial hemp is an agricultural product that may be grown, produced, possessed, processed, and exchanged in the state solely and exclusively as part of an industrial hemp research program supervised by the department. Processing any part of industrial hemp, except seed, as food, extract, oil, cake, concentrate, resin, or other preparation for topical use, oral consumption, or inhalation by humans is prohibited.

The bill tasks the Washington State Department of Agriculture with creating a licensing program for growers who want to cultivate hemp for research purposes only and the Department of Agriculture rules must include the following:

  1. Fee amounts for license application, issuance, and renewal.
  2. Testing criteria and protocols for testing compliance with THC levels.
  3. Grower qualifications that include, at minimum, ineligibility for anyone with a prior felony drug conviction within ten years of applying for the license. The department shall adopt by rule the persons in associations, corporations, and other business entities to be qualified under this felony drug conviction limitation.
  4. Rules for administering an industrial hemp research program, including the goals of the program.

The bill also mandates “Washington State University shall study the feasibility and desirability of industrial hemp production in Washington,” to include the following:

  1. The economic conditions affecting development of an industrial hemp industry in Washington state.
  2. Estimated value-added benefits to Washington’s economy from having a developed industrial hemp industry.
  3. Whether Washington soils and growing conditions are appropriate for industrial hemp in the rotation of other crops and whether soils and growing conditions are appropriate for farming industrial hemp at economically viable levels.
  4. Whether growing industrial hemp will introduce or serve as a vector for plant disease affecting related species, such as hops.
  5. The agronomy research being conducted worldwide relating to industrial hemp varieties, production, and use.
  6. Other legislative acts, experiences, and outcomes around the world regarding industrial hemp production.

WSU has to report its findings to the legislature by January 14, 2017, and its report must include recommendations for any legislative actions necessary to encourage and support development of an industrial hemp industry in the state of Washington. WSU’s obligation to the state under this law expire in August 2017.

This is a big step forward towards an established and regulated commercial hemp program in Washington, which has previously been slow to get off the ground, even after passage of the 2014 federal Farm Bill. Knowledge is power, and the more Washington state knows about the benefits of cultivating industrial hemp the better and we are looking forward to the research and studies that will spring from this bill creating a robust hemp economy in Washington State.

For more on hemp in the U.S., check out: