Bill would create Washington cannabis commission

A new bill under consideration this week in the State Legislature would create a cannabis commission in Washington State.

Lawmakers say the commission would help growers and producers to compete nationally if or when federal restrictions are finally loosened, and the entire U.S. market opens up.

It would function like the more than 20 agriculture commissions already in place in Washington, and could help to promote locally grown varieties of cannabis and protect the Washington brand against trademark infringement.

Ten years after the legalization of recreational marijuana, Washington lawmakers will be considering this week whether it's time to step up the protection and promotion of Washington's cannabis industry by establishing an official Washington State Cannabis Commission.

"That would be self-funded by the industry, kind of a mandatory fee," said Republican Rep. Kelly Chambers, District 25.

Under HB 1581, the commission's purposes would include things like research, advertising government agencies, reviewing market metrics, educating and advising producers, advancing knowledge and practice, and limiting youth access.

It would also grant powers for acquiring, creating and owning intellectual property rights, licenses and patents.

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"Creating and developing intellectual property rights. So, we have other commissions we have a wine commission and a potato commission that promote Washington wine or Washington potatoes. So, sort of do the same thing," said Chambers.

Washington's Apple Commission—one of the state's oldest commissions—provides a good example of what residents might expect from a possible new cannabis commission.

The commission's website advertises: "We've got the highest standards for apples in the country." It also promotes Washington's apple varieties. Finally, it states that the Apple Commission's mission is "to protect the grower investment in the Washington brand against trademark infringement in all markets."

Chambers says a new commission's approach with Washington's marijuana industry could look similar.

"If you are developing unique strains of cannabis for Washington, that sort of positions Washington, looking to the future, should this—cannabis—be federalized," said Chambers.

Chambers says the focus on intellectual property would be an important role for the new commission.

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"Once all those gates open, if they open, there is going to be a lot of competition and the producers here were one of the first states to legalize cannabis. They have a lot of pride in the product they created, and I think that’s going to stand out among other states where they legalize cannabis," said Chambers.

Public testimony is scheduled for the bill Monday afternoon during a House Regulated Substances and Gaming Commission meeting.