Retooling drug laws, protecting octopus and honoring a cactus

It’s already Day 26. Here’s what’s happening in the 2023 session of the Washington Legislature

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2023 Washington Legislature, Day 26 of 105

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, Feb. 3, 2023 — Happy Friday. Ring up another week.

Thank Sen. Judy Warnick of Moses Lake for giving her colleagues a prickly matter to handle. She wants pediocactus nigrispinus to be designated the official cactus of Washington.

She dropped Senate Bill 5698 to do it. This species, also known as snowball cactus, hedgehog cactus and Columbia Plateau cactus, is found in Eastern Washington as well as parts of Oregon and Idaho, per a limited research of succulent sites.

She’s got two weeks to make her point as Feb. 17 is the deadline to get this non-budget bill out of a policy committee.

Blake Day

Four approaches to retooling the state’s drug possession laws will get aired out Monday morning in the Senate Law and Justice Committee. Parts of each could wind up in a final legislative response to the Blake decision.

After the Supreme Court tossed out the state’s felony drug possession law in the case, lawmakers decided to make possession a misdemeanor and direct cops to steer individuals into treatment rather than jail. The changes expire in July giving the Legislature a deadline to do something.

One of the four proposed bills keeps possession a misdemeanor. The others make it a gross misdemeanor or a felony. Embedded in the quartet are a variety of ways for cops and prosecutors to dole out punishment. Pathways for entering diversion programs and vacating drug possession convictions get touched on too. You’ll find provisions aimed at making treatment and recovery services more available, even in resistant communities.

Sen. June Robinson, D-Everett, is sponsor of one bill. She predicted early on there would be many rewrites.

“This is going to get beat up and negotiated a million times before the last day of session,” she said.

No more free soap?

Those little shampoos and lotions hotels freely give away are in the crosshairs of lawmakers.

A House bill would bar hotels and motels from handing out shampoos, body washes, shower gels and other personal beauty products in plastic containers of 6 or fewer ounces. The ban would take effect July 1, 2027 for lodging establishments with 50 or more units, and a year later for smaller ones. Hospitals, prisons, homeless shelters, and long-term rentals are among facilities exempt.

A hearing on House Bill 1085 is set for 4 p.m. Monday in the House Appropriations Committee.

Octopus protection

Remember the bill to ban octopus farming in Washington? The House Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee will give it a hearing at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

No farms are proposed in the state today. With consumer demand for octopus surging worldwide, farming is viewed as a way to satisfy customers. The first one is supposed to open in Spain this year.

Researchers in England may have put the kibosh on this nascent industry with a 2021 study that found “very strong evidence” that octopus are sentient beings capable of experiencing distress and happiness. A farm would bring out their worst, researchers concluded.

Correcting the record

An alert reader politely pointed out a mistake in Wednesday’s edition. I wrote applicants for the Working Families Tax Credit must be at least 25 and under 65. That was wrong. The age restriction is only for workers without children. People with children can claim the credit at any age. I stand corrected.

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