How to Get Involved
A new bill could have a significant impact on hemp legislation in Washington state, but needs your support in order to pass the House and Senate. House Bill 1401 was filed by the Washington State Legislature on Jan. 18, 2019. If it’s passed by the House and Senate, and then signed into law by the Governor, House Bill 1401 will replace the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program (IHRP).
A Senate hearing on House Bill 1401 will take place in Olympia on January 29 at 1:30pm, outside Senate Hearing Room #3 in the J.A. Cherberg Building. You can sign in online and testify either by e-mail or in person.
A Need for Change
Although the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the federal list of controlled substances, much still remains the same for hemp farmers and processors throughout the state. This is because they are still operating under outdated rules written by the State Department of Agriculture, back when there was little federal distinction between hemp and marijuana.
The current rules are very limited, banning the production of CBD oil, prohibiting growing hemp within four miles of marijuana and imposing thousands of dollars in fees.
Washington currently has just one state-licensed hemp grower, the Colville Tribe in Northeast Washington. Increasing this number will prove to be difficult due to the low number of hemp processors and farmers in the state. This will make taxpayer support or an increase in already costly fees necessary in order to inspect and license hemp operations.
House Bill 1401 vs. Senate Bill 5276
Although the House Bill is slightly more complex than the Senate Bill, it yields far more gains for the hemp industry. House Bill 1401 would remove the necessity for taxpayer support or a sharp increase in fees by proposing a $300,000 subsidy to keep the hemp program afloat for two more years. By contrast, Senate Bill 5276 would charge growers an acreage fee ranging from $10 for one acre to $150 for 25 acres, with a fee of $7 for every additional acre.
Current regulations regarding the four-mile buffer also require hemp farmers to yield their space, even if they were there first. House Bill 1401 would give the farmer who was there first the right to stay. It also directs the State Department of Liquor and Cannabis Board, as well as the State Department of Agriculture, to review the current buffer and assess if it should be changed. Senate Bill 5276 chooses instead to repeal the law that gave the State Department of Agriculture the authority to write it.
The House Bill would mandate farmers only plant hemp varieties approved the State Department of Agriculture, while the Senate Bill would require farmers to report the types of seeds they planted for record-keeping purposes. Lastly, the House Bill would remove the prohibition on manufacturing CBD oil from Washington-grown hemp and the Senate Bill would keep that prohibition.