Senate Bill 5546, legislation establish to authorize a state cannabis commission, passed the Senate on Wednesday.

“I sponsored this bill because I believe in agricultural research. Research has been a powerful force in providing cheap and safe crops for our nation, and continues to push agriculture to be more efficient, more humane and more sustainable. However, cannabis has not had access to federally funded research because of its federal status,” said Sen. Sharon Shewmake (D-Bellingham), sponsor of Senate Bill 5546. “Washington has the opportunity to lead the nation with a sustainable, safe, and efficient cannabis industry, and a cannabis commission can help them develop the knowledge and science to do it.”

There are 21 agricultural commodity commissions related to specific commodities in Washington, which do work on behalf of their industries like scientific research, advising producers on best practices, and more. Examples include the Washington Apple Commission’s assistance with the recently developed Cosmic Crisp apple variety and the Washington Wine Commission’s research into the impact of wildfire smoke on wine grapes.

The cannabis commission authorized by the bill would be approved or rejected by a referendum of cannabis producers, requiring support of at least 51 percent of voting participants and turn out of at least 40 percent among active registered cannabis producers and processers. If approved, it would be funded by assessments on cannabis producers similar to other commodity commissions.

The proposed cannabis commission would help the industry come together on research projects and lift all boats in the market at a low cost to the producers. Cannabis producers have stated bans on federal funding used for scientific research has hampered their ability to develop best practices on growing techniques — information the cannabis commission could provide.

“Cannabis growers have told me they have all sorts of questions they don’t have the best answers to yet — how much nitrogen to use in the soil with which plants, finding safe and effective ways to deal with pests, how to avoid odor and waste and be good environmental stewards, what lights work best where and much more,” Shewmake said. “Research funded by a state commission could answer these questions, when the federal government won’t.”

The bill now goes to the House for consideration.