Jill Walker, operations director for The Cannabis Alliance.Although Washington legalized marijuana for adult use almost nine years ago, the life of a cannabis activist has never been busier, working fervently to improve the rules and regulations for medical patients, the general public and the booming, billion-dollar industry — three sectors that often have conflicting views on the market.
“This is not an industry for the light-hearted,” says Jill Walker, the operations director of The Cannabis Alliance, a trade group with about 200 members. “But I think if we do our work and we do it right and we do it now, we can really set up an industry that we will be proud of for generations.”
Walker handles the day-to-day nuts and bolts of the nonprofit organization, which is currently organizing the seventh annual Washington Cannabis Summit (September 23), conducting a national search for a permanent executive director to take over the reins from interim director Caitlein Ryan and preparing for its lobbying push in advance of the 2022 legislative session.
Walker and The Cannabis Alliance have three primary goals on their agenda for changes to the Evergreen State’s marijuana laws.
One of those objectives is to allow home grow for all adults, something almost every other recreational state allows.
“I will stand on my box all day, every day talking about how it is irresponsible that we do not have home grow here in Washington state,” Walker says.
While some believe home grow will detract from the state’s licensed, retail market, Walker believes it will help with inequality issues, improve access for patients and, ultimately, contribute to a more informed consumer base without negatively affecting the regulated industry.
The two other priorities for The Cannabis Alliance this upcoming fall and winter are creating a cannabis research commission and removing the excise tax on products that meet the Department of Health’s classification for “medical” cannabis.
The idea for the cannabis research commission is “an agency where we can do real research for the good of the industry and be able to pool our very limited resources to answer some big questions,” Walker says. One example is the lack of pesticide testing in Washington. A research commission could determine what to test for and set action limits and other details to inform regulators and operators.
Removing the tax on DOH-compliant products would help ease the financial burden of medical patients who buy cannabis products from adult-use shops.
Each of these reforms have made progress in recent years, but have yet to get over the finish line. Walker hopes this will be the year for a major step toward The Cannabis Alliance’s goal of creating a “vital, ethical and sustainable cannabis industry.”
“The rest of the country and the rest of the world are looking at what we do here in Washington state and modeling what legalization is going to look like everywhere,” she says. “And for me personally, it makes my hair stand on end. But it’s also a big responsibility. We have the responsibility to do it right.”