OLYMPIA — Legislation to legalize hemp farming was among a batch of bills Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed last week to punish lawmakers for not passing a budget before the regular session adjourned.
The setback for hemp advocates may only be temporary. The Legislature can repass the bill during the 30-day session that began March 11.
All told, Inslee vetoed 27 of the 37 bills legislators sent him during the just-concluded 60-day session.
“Given legislators’ inability to complete their number one job, I measured these bills against the importance of the budget and set a very high bar,” Inslee said in a written statement.
“I recognize this is perhaps the largest single batch of vetoes in history. None of these vetoed bills were as important as the fundamental responsibility of passing a budget. I continue to hope legislators will focus on negotiations and reach agreement as quickly as possible.”
In a boilerplate veto message, Inslee said the hemp legislation was a “worthy bill,” but not more important than the budget. “Until a budget agreement is reached, I cannot support this bill.”
In a tartly worded email to members, the Washington Farm Bureau scolded Inslee for an “overstepped power play” and for failing to fulfill the governor’s role of being the “grownup in the room.”
“Our current governor continues to show an uncanny ability to drive a wedge between his office and legislators,” according to the Farm Bureau.
The Farm Bureau took a poke at Inslee’s passion for cutting carbon to curb climate change. The Farm Bureau said all the fuel, electricity and “hot air” invested in passing the 27 bills were “wasted by the stroke of a pen.”
Washington voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, but legislators have struggled since then to legalize cultivating hemp, which is a federally controlled substance.
Lawmakers this year settled on a bill modeled after Kentucky’s law. The Washington State Department of Agriculture would license hemp farmers, control the seed supply and inspect plants.
The bill has strong support in the House and Senate. The Senate’s latest budget proposal includes $145,000 for WSDA to set up a hemp program. If the funding is in the spending plan eventually passed by the Legislature, lawmakers would presumably repass the hemp bill to implement the budget.
The Senate and House are negotiating adjustments to the two-year budget that kept lawmakers in Olympia until early July last year. The differences are much smaller this year.