Report: Washington state economy receives $2 billion annually from cannabis

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A fresh report, titled “2020 Contributions of the Washington Cannabis Sector,” suggests that the cannabis industry is a significant merit to the Pacific Northwest state’s economy.

Conducted by a team of researchers at Washington State University, the report claims that legal cannabis is capable of boosting the economy to the amount of $2 billion on an annual basis.

Washington’s cannabis industry, which WSU researchers say is growing at a “staggering rate”, contributed $1.85 billion of gross state product last year and helped to support approximately 18,700 jobs. Additionally, retail sales jumped 605 percent between the years 2015 and 2020.

“The expected 2021 contributions to Washington’s gross state product resulting from the cannabis sector is $2.13 billion, up from the $1.8 billion in 2020,” wrote the WSU researchers, who expressed their optimism about continued growth this year.

Home cannabis cultivation could further stimulate Washington state economy 

Currently, aside from the medical cannabis patients who are allowed to grow the plant for personal use, home cannabis cultivation is not permitted under Washington state’s recreational cannabis rules. 

Nonetheless, WSU’s cannabis report indicates that the economy could be further strengthened if adult-use consumers can harvest their own crops something that could potentially transpire if an existing bill manages to progress in the state legislature. 

One might wonder how businesses could benefit if consumers are eligible to grow their own plants. However, as the report states, permitting recreational cannabis home grows would stimulate product revolution and experimentation, which could help to expand the market as a whole.

Washington lawmakers propose legislation to decriminalize all drugs and broaden treatment options 

On Thursday, February 4, Washington State lawmakers introduced legislation HB 1499 to decriminalize small amounts of cannabis. The proposed legislation would also broaden treatment options for people with substance use disorders; such disorders would be considered a public health matter.

“Substance disorder is among the only health conditions for which a person can be arrested for displaying symptoms,” reads an excerpt from the new bill, which is sponsored by Reps. Lauren Harris (D) and Kirsten Harris-Talley (D). “Treating substance disorder like a crime through arrests and incarceration further disrupts and destabilizes the lives of these individuals.”

Aside from decriminalizing small amounts of cannabis and granting support to individuals who suffer from substance use disorder, HB 1499 would allow consumers to possess “personal use amounts” of controlled substances without being penalized for doing so. 

If the legislation is approved, the Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA) would be required to prepare a plan that ensures “continual, rapid and widespread access to a comprehensive continuum of care must be provided to all persons with substance use disorder.”

An HCA workgroup is expected to establish possession limits for what has been named the “Pathways to Recovery Act” no later than September 2022.