Unlike most products, laws prevent cannabis from crossing state lines. If you cultivate cannabis crops in Michigan, you must sell to a dispensary or similar company in Michigan. Interstate cannabis commerce simply doesn’t exist.
A group of state lawmakers in Washington wants to change that, making it possible for cannabis companies in different states to collaborate.
What the Bill Says
A bipartisan group led by Senators Karen Keiser (D) and Ann Rivers (R) introduced a senate bill that would give Washington’s governor authority to make deals with other states that have legalized cannabis. The language explicitly states that Washington can only do business with licensed businesses, so it would not fund black market cultivators. The bill also specifies that all cannabis products sold in Washington must meet the state’s labeling rules and packaging requirements.
Even if the bill passes and gets signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee, it would only go into effect after one of two conditions is met. Either the federal government would need to approve interstate transfer of cannabis, or the Department of Justice would need to assure the legal cannabis industry that it plans to allow or tolerate cross-state commerce.
The State of Washington would need a written notice describing the policy change. At that point, the state might need to reconsider some of its internal regulations and make adjustments as needed.
Other States Want Interstate Cannabis Commerce
Washington is often at the forefront of cannabis laws. In this instance, it isn’t the first state to show support for interstate cannabis commerce. Oregon and California have similar laws that have already passed legislative bodies and gained approval from their governors.
Washington’s interest would make it much easier for the West Coast to dominate the cannabis industry. Interstate commerce between California, Oregon, and Washington would create a flexible sector that could pivot to maximize profits, avoid crop disruptions, and control costs. Eventually, states could create regional regulatory bodies.
New Jersey State Senate President Nick Scutari also sees benefits in interstate cannabis commerce. In August 2022, he filed a bill that would allow interstate commerce in New Jersey. Currently, the legislature has not voted on the bill.
Is Interstate Cannabis Commerce Possible?
The federal government must adopt new legislation before states can move cannabis across borders. There are several reasons for states to take precautions ahead of the federal government changing its laws:
- Trucks using federally supported interstate highways could be held accountable for transporting Schedule I drugs.
- While states have significant control over their internal laws, the federal government oversees interstate activities.
- An interstate cannabis economy would need more banking support, which federal laws currently make impossible.
- Provoking the federal government could encourage Congress or future presidents to enforce stricter regulations that would damage state cannabis industries.
Interstate cannabis commerce is possible, but it will require cooperation between state and federal governments. Until the federal government softens enforcement or changes its laws, you shouldn’t expect to see products from other states sold at your local dispensary.
Still, the states taking steps toward great economic opportunities will have a head start on those that see interstate cannabis commerce as an impossibility. Planning for a potential future positions Washington, Oregon, and California to take advantage of evolving laws more quickly than other states can.