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Representative Hurst Confirms Work On I-502 Fixes

“We are not going to sideswipe anyone..."

Initiative Amendment Bill In The Works

During a telephone interview today, Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Enumclaw, chairman of the House Government Oversight and Accountability Committee, confirmed that he hopes the Legislature will come to agreement on a bill to amend Initiative 502. Any change will require a two-thirds vote of both chambers because the law was passed by the voters in November of 2012 — the Constitution requires a two-thirds vote to amend initiatives within the first two years of passage.

Hurst has been talking with House leaders and key senators about changes to the new recreational-use cannabis recreational-use law established by Initiative 502. Because the measure is a revenue generating statute, amendments are exempt from committee cutoff rules and are deemed necessary to implement a budget. Other House fiscal leaders have said they cannot count on cannabis sale and license proceeds in drafting this year’s biennial budget. A clean I-502 amendment could change that.

More Than A Narrow Group

Hurst has been discussing possible amendments with Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, ranking Republican on Hurst’s committee, Senate Commerce and Labor Chair Janea Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake, and ranking Democrat Steve Conway of Tacoma. “If we can’t get a near-unanimous vote for these they will not work,” Hurst told us. Representatives of the liquor board have also been advising legislators on amendments. The Liquor Control Board is in the process of conducting statewide public forums seeking input for the unprecedented task before it, implementing the nation’s first legal recreational use, “seed-to-consumption,” cannabis regulatory platform. Alison Holcomb, director of the I-502 campaign and representative of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, also has been contributing to the clarification of key implementation issues.

Specific Issues To Be Addressed

As is the case of all bills in the works, rumors swirl about the issues that an I-502 bill would address. Hurst said there is no consensus at this point. He said he believes it is necessary for the bill to be narrow, specific, and involve only a minimum of issues necessary to implement the intention of the initiative. The press of the self-imposed cutoff date for committees to pass policy bills has slowed the discussion and work on the I-502 amendments. Only after individuals and caucuses have a chance to discuss the very limited number of issues will a formal list be public. The House chair ended the interview with this: “We are not going to sideswipe anyone, there are no fast moves here, this will be a very open and transparent process with near unanimous agreement, or it won’t happen.”