As most Washington cannabis enthusiasts have probably heard by now, Washington legislators have introduced a mind-boggling bill. The bill, HB 2546, aims to limit cannabis concentrates to 10% THC.

This, after banning all additives except cannabis-derived terpenes in concentrates, illustrates a clear lack of comprehension of the cannabis market by legislators. 

Cannabis and Psychosis Study

The bill was written in response to a single study linking high-potency cannabis products to psychosis. Scientists who authored the study compared instances of psychosis in people who used low-potency cannabis, defined as any cannabis less than 10% THC, and high-potency cannabis, which is defined as anything over 10% THC. This study is far from conclusive, and their methods for determining THC percentages were unclear. 

Flower and Edible THC Percentages

The bill also seems to have a loose grasp on current cannabis regulations and product limits for THC.

“Whereas THC concentration of marijuana-infused edible products is limited to ten percent by state law,” The bill reads. “And the THC concentration of marijuana flower is biologically limited, there is currently no limit on the potency of marijuana concentrates such as THC-infused vape oils.”

Edibles in Washington state can contain no more than 10mg THC per serving and 100mg THC per package. No percentages are involved in that limit. A 12-ounce soft drink or treat at 10% THC would be bananas, just like this bill. And while THC levels in cannabis flower are biologically limited, that limit far exceeds 10%.

Hash has Been Around

Suspect scientific motivations and poor cannabis knowledge aside, the bill’s language has other issues. The bill reads, “Prior to Washington and other states legalizing marijuana sales, many of these high-potency products did not exist or were not widely available.”

This is demonstrably false. While vaping technology is relatively new, cannabis concentrates in some form or another have been around for centuries. The use of solvents in extraction has been written about since the 1970s. And anyone who purchased cannabis illicitly can tell you there was an abundant supply of cannabis concentrates before legalization. 

Logistical Nightmare

The goal of HB 2546, to cap concentrates at 10% THC, would create far more issues than it would solve.

Monica Barry, the Director of Supply Chain at Tamerlane, which offers brokerage and supply chain services to cannabis producers and processors in Washington and California, spoke to The Sesh about the logistical issues HB 2546 would create if passed.

“90% of the flower coming from the industry is over 10% THC,” Barry wrote via email. “With that knowledge when creating extract for a vape cartridge, there is no way to meet the bills’ guidelines except to cut the remaining 90% with fillers. Fillers that the ban in September was based on.”

Destroying the Cannabis Market

In addition to logistical issues, HB 2546 would radically destabilize Washington’s extract market, which accounts for 40% of the total market.

 “If this bill passed, it would destroy the already fragile extract market,” Barry explained.

Barry predicts that HB 2546’s passage would lead to 40% of Washington’s cannabis industry shutting down, putting hundreds of people out of work. 

Cannabis processors agree. Giana White of WAM Oils, told The Sesh, “I don’t think it will go anywhere. I think about the economic devastation of the industry. It’s ridiculous.”

White also worries about the logistical side of things.

“Flower THC average ranges from 20 to 25 percent,” White explains. “Processors would have to dilute the oil with additives.”

Opening up the Illicit Market

One of the main arguments for I-502 was regulating a booming illicit market. Capping cannabis concentrates at 10% THC wouldn’t stop people from using cannabis concentrates. It would just stop them from acquiring safe, legal products.

“The consumer would go back to the illicit market to get the unregulated and proven dangerous vape cartridges,” Barry predicts. “The results would be a rise in lung illnesses and deaths. If this bill passes, processors would stop making extract and would no longer need biomass. That biomass would find its way out the back door to the black market to process extract for illegal vape cartridges.”

Illicit cannabis concentrate manufacturing is extremely dangerous. Before legalization, hash lab explosions were becoming a real problem in Washington. Not to mention the final products were not held to any standards and the residual solvents in improperly purged hash were far higher than what’s considered safe. 

Response from Legislators

The Sesh requested comments from Democratic Representatives Davis, Harris, Callan, Leavitt, Thai, Senn, Appleton, Wylie, Dolan, Walen, Chambers,  Ramos, and Kloba and haven’t received a response. Additionally, Republican Representatives Klippert and Corry haven’t responded to requests for comment.

The Sesh also reached out to Senator Nguyen, who initially cosponsored the companion bill, SB 6332, and this was the response from his staff.

“After rereading the bill and looking it over, Sen. Nguyen realized that he had mistakenly signed on as a co-sponsor, and has decided to remove his name entirely,” Courtney James, Communications Specialist for the Senate Democrats wrote via email. “His name will no longer be attached or involved with the legislation.” 

The Sesh will update this piece with any comments received from legislators.

What’s ahead for HB 2546

The hearing for HB 2546 will be held on January 30, in the House Committee on Commerce & Gaming at 8:00 AM. If you’d like to contribute your opinion on the matter, you can leave a comment here.

The resolute lack of response from legislators is telling. Perhaps they don’t have the answers sought, because the bill was signed hastily. Following the hearing, hopefully, we’ll learn the poorly thought out bill has died. 

Image by Cameek33 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.