By John Davis, Northwest Patient Resource Center
In the 2015 legislative session, much changed in Washington State cannabis law. As with any change in cannabis law in any state, there is much drama that happens after such a change. Usually there is much bickering, finger-pointing, rumors, and misinformation in general. People seem to come out of the woodwork with often nonsensical interpretations of the new law. This often makes me wonder where they were during the legislative session when they may have been able to change the details that seem to trouble them now.
The fact is that all laws passed are imperfect. They are going to need to be fixed and those fixes are going to need to be fixed. There is not just one person that writes what is passed as law. There is a plethora of authors that include industry, interest groups, law enforcement, localities, citizen groups, and many others. Omnibus laws are going to advance some things and create problems elsewhere. This is to be expected.
The thing about law is, once it has passed and been signed by the Governor, it is what it is until the next session. This is not the time for bickering for those that are serious about making positive change. This becomes a time to work together. Once a bill becomes law, the legislative verbiage is put through a process called “rule-making.” In this rule-making, things can be steered within the framework of the law. In addition, the time before the next legislative session is a perfect time to solicit consensus and to author and shop legislative verbiage to potential bill sponsors.
After passage, no matter whether you like the law or not, it needs to be studied. It should be done dispassionately. It should be done section by section. You should ask yourself:
- What does this section say?
- What is the legislative intent of the section?
- What is the synopsis of the section?
- What rule-making does this section call for and by which agency?
- Are there things in this section that need to be changed in subsequent legislative sessions?
You should write your answers to these questions down so that you can refer to them later. This is the way that you can be most effective at influencing rule-making and achieving success in subsequent legislative sessions. Really, how are you to influence rule-making when you don’t know what rule-making is going to happen with which agency? How are you going to achieve consensus enough to get changes in a legislative session when you don’t know specifically what needs to change?
We in the cannabis industry need to stop the self-destructive habit of thinking of legislative changes as “good” or “bad.” During session we need to do our best to be influential to produce the best results possible. After a law is passed we must come together to produce the best possible results in rule-making and plan for the next legislative session. To do this we need to stop finger-pointing and work together. Divisiveness and name-calling poisons the well for consensus-building.
Approaching a rule-making body or legislature as one person or organization is not going to be very influential.
Approaching the same as an industry with a common voice is powerful and will be extremely helpful in creating positive change.
We must put aside the pettiness and ego and work together for the betterment of the industry and the movement. Those that are willing to work together need to be finding the others that are willing to work together. We need to be focused on listening to others in the industry to understand what their ideas and concerns are. We need to include the end users and to consider their points of view. We need to have patience with each other. We need to put in the work to build consensus on the changes that need to be made. We need to be willing to compromise for the greater good. We need to accept that what happens in the end will not be perfect. We need to, in short, be an industry.
Prohibition is the enemy, not each other. To that end, we have been working to bring together the various industry groups in Washington State to form a super organization that is allied in its purpose. The Coalition for Cannabis Standards and Ethics, CAUSE-M, WAMJA, WMA and Northwest Producers, Processors, and Retailers have formed a Steering Committee to bring these organizations under a common banner. These groups represent the full spectrum of the industry, consisting of producers, processors, retailers, and ancillary businesses. It is my belief that there needs to be industry consensus even when there may be differences in perspective. Retailers and producers working against each other in a lobby effort really just has the effect of negating both. We are looking forward to merging together and ultimately forming a commission that is state-recognized.
Together we will move into the future.
John Davis, an entrepreneur and drug policy activist in Seattle, is founder of Northwest Patient Resource Center. After managing the oldest and longest running medical cannabis dispensary in the state, Compassion In Action, John founded Northwest Patient Resource Center, where he currently serves as the organization’s Chief Executive Officer. John is a founder of the Coalition for Cannabis Standards and Ethics (CCSE) and currently serves as the Executive Director of the industry group. He also chairs the CCSE Access Point Subcommittee. John is on the Board of Directors of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) and the Cannabis Defense Coalition (CDC), and is on the Advisory Board for Blue Sage Microbes and Life Sense Technologies.