OLYMPIA – The state would collect better data and be equipped to take steps to discourage consumption of cannabis containing high amounts of the intoxicating agent THC under legislation passed today on a vote of 44-5 in the Senate.

“I am concerned that the proliferation of high-potency cannabis products — in some cases up to 100% THC, when a cannabis plant is only 15% — is posing a danger to consumers, especially to young people,” said Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), chair of the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee and prime sponsor of SB 6271.

The legislation would better regulate cannabis by following a strategy Washington state has successfully used with tobacco, Keiser said.

First, the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) would collect data on THC content in commercial cannabis products. Current data collection tracks gross revenue, not product content.

Next, the LCB would propose a revenue-neutral shift in the tax structure such that the higher the THC content, the higher the tax. The tax rate would be lower for low-THC products than the current 37%, and higher on high-THC products. A tax rate based on THC content is a newer approach that has been adopted in New York and Connecticut.

The goal is to generate the same overall revenue while helping reduce consumption of high-THC products, Keiser said, just as Washington state’s tobacco tax has decreased consumption of nicotine, especially among young people.

“Our state has benefited greatly from having a well-designed regulatory framework for cannabis that works well for consumers and businesses — one that has established public trust,” Keiser said. “When there are new developments in the market, it’s important that we update our system to maintain that trust.”

Another bill passed by the Labor & Commerce Committee, SB 6220, would help reduce usage of high-THC products by young Washingtonians by directing the Liquor and Cannabis Board to define the concentration of THC that constitutes high-THC cannabis, once market research is complete; setting the minimum age to purchase it at 25; and funding research and training on its effects. That bill is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

SB 6271 bill now moves to the House for consideration.