Help us make responsible and inclusive cannabis legislation possible for all Texans.

Washington May Raise the Minimum Age for High THC Cannabis Purchases

In several ways, the State of Washington is an absolute pioneer and innovator for the American cannabis industry. Today, the legislature is looking hard at a bill known as House Bill 2320, which would raise the minimum age of products containing 35% THC or more, to 25 years old.

Twelve years of legal cannabis in Washington

Washington was the first state to fully legalize cannabis for adult-use in 2012, when Initiative 502 passed by an 11 percent margin during the 2012 elections. At that time, Washington became an unofficial case study into what a fully legal cannabis marketplace would look like.

Since the passing of I502 over a decade ago, Washington cannabis has become a billion dollar industry. In 2023, in fact, the Washington cannabis industry recorded over $1.1 billion in licensed sales by November. Washington’s shortfall was considerably smaller than California or Oregon from 2022 to 2023. Additionally, Washington was one of, if not the very first state to implement proper social equity measures within their state’s cannabis industry with House Bill 2870, which passed in March 2020.

Washington cannabis today

The catalog of products offered at Washington dispensaries are diverse and as vast, as should be the case in a competitive cannabis industry. The approximately 600 dispensaries across the Evergreen State ensure that the state certainly lives up to its moniker. From every flavor of cannabis flower to every consistency and type of concentrate and enough edible cannabis candies to rival even Willie Wonka, Washington cannabis consumers have a plethora of products to pick from.

However, despite being as innovative and ahead of the nationally mainstream curb as the Washington cannabis industry has become, it’s not an infallible industry by any means. The tax rate for recreational cannabis sales in Washington is an astonishing 37 percent– a full 12 percent higher than tourism-driven Nevada and considerably higher than many other states. Elected state officials in Washington are also starting to reconsider the regulations behind how cannabis is sold in the state: one legislative proposal would dictate which products are allowed to be sold to people under the age of 25.

House Bill 2320 and age limits for products of 35% THC or more

If signed into law, the bipartisan House Bill 2320 would limit the types of cannabis products consumers can purchase in Washington, by prohibiting the sale of cannabis concentrate products and any products that test over 35 percent THC to anyone under the age of 25. If this bill becomes law, it would severely restrict the types of products that 21-24 years olds can purchase. Not only would all vape cartridges be off limits, but all forms of concentrates and infused pre-rolls would also be prohibited. Even the very rare flower batch that tests over 35 percent THC would be banned from being sold to consumers in this specific age range.

The bill was actually introduced by Democratic Rep. Lauren Davis:

“Today, there’s no legal limit on the potency of the psychoactive element, THC, in cannabis concentrates,” Davis explained in a press release on her website. “Cannabis vape oils, dabs and shatter are regularly sold with a THC potency of nearly 100 percent, a tenfold increase in potency from when cannabis was legalized in 2012. These concentrated products are different. And dangerous.”

“The cannabis industry has changed considerably since cannabis was legalized,” Dent said. “This legislation is needed to address the ever changing market and put some measures in place to protect cannabis users and our youth.”

Dent and Davis primarily reference the November 2020 report from the Washington State Prevention Research Subcommittee in their research. This report, conducted jointly by Washington State University and the University of Washington, provides analysis that often conflates correlation with causation.

The underlying premise for their study was the changes in cannabis potency and the availability of concentrates. This is also unfounded. Contrary to their claims, the potency of cannabis has not significantly increased; rather, many growers have learned to manipulate the testing system, and testing facilities often have conflicting interests. One testing facility claimed a concentrate had 103% THC! As for concentrates new found existence, they have been available before legalization, with a temporary decline in popularity following the 2019-2020 Vape Gate crisis.

Why I don’t like House Bill 2320

While it’s challenging to criticize well-intentioned efforts to reduce potential harms, it’s important to consider the broader context. If our goal is genuinely to protect youth from harm, as the study claims, we should prioritize examining issues such as alcohol consumption and unrestricted driver’s licenses, both of which pose actual, known significant risks and result in teen fatalities annually.

More to the point, if an eighteen-year-old can make decisions about going to war, purchasing a gun, and being held accountable for their actions as an adult, they should also have the autonomy to choose the type of cannabis they use. Otherwise, we need to reconsider the criteria for defining when a youth becomes an adult. As any cannabis retailer will tell you, a majority of consumers (including 18- to 25-year-olds) walk through the door asking for the highest THC at the lowest price.

It would be refreshing if the legislature would start looking at ways to promote and lift the cannabis industry up, the same way that they would any other major export, like apples, seafood, dairy, or wine. Cannabis companies are in partnership with the State and producers grow some of the best cannabis in the world. Processors, for example, are on the bleeding edge of creating some of the most unique concentrates in the United States. We need to find ways to work together to expand our industry, not restrict it.

As cannabis concentrates become increasingly popular, and politicians and researchers discover the existence of these products, discussion over the potency of high-THC products and when individuals can make their own decision will continue. In these discussions, it is essential to consider the broader context and ensure that regulations are balanced and informed by reliable research.

Ultimately, as discussions around cannabis potency and access evolve, the industry and policymakers must continue to prioritize evidence-based approaches that promote both public health and individual autonomy.

The post Washington May Raise the Minimum Age for High THC Cannabis Purchases appeared first on Harris Sliwoski LLP.

Read More

Are you ready to take action?

Write your congressman or vote in our poll.

Donate to the cause

Help us make responsible and inclusive cannabis legislation possible for all Texans.