Hillard Heintze - Focus Group
(July 31, 2019)

Wednesday July 31, 2019 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

Hillard Heintze is a Chicago-based consultancy specializing in law enforcement and risk management projects with organizations in the United States and beyond. Three consultants with law enforcement backgrounds interviewed participants about the regulated cannabis marketplace in Washington State, and the pivotal role played by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) in that unfolding story. While the scope of Hillard Heintze’s subsequent observations and recommendations would be constrained to the WSLCB Enforcement and Education Division, the consultants seemed interested to hear most anything participants wanted to share regarding the agency and their experiences in the state’s legalized cannabis experiment.

In late March, the Hillard Heintze firm responded to a WSLCB request for proposals (RFP) for “a neutral, third party consulting firm to examine the practices of the WSLCB Enforcement and Education Division.” The RFP introduction states:

The successful vendor will conduct a systemic review of all aspects of operations and management of the Enforcement and Education Division, with an emphasis on policies, complaint intake and investigations, and training and accountability. The successful vendor will evaluate the internal functions of the Enforcement and Education division’s efficiency and effectiveness carrying out the WSLCB’s mission…

The WSLCB did not undertake voluntary solicitation for review of its enforcement practices without prompting. During the 2019 session, the legislature mandated extensive reform of WSLCB enforcement practices through SB 5318. An early version of the bill (section 10) would have created “a legislative work group on cannabis enforcement and training processes and procedures” with members appointed by the legislature. In mid-February as the bill progressed, a group of legislators sent a letter to the Office of the Governor which oversees all executive branch agencies and was responsible for appointment of members of the WSLCB Board who in turn appoint the agency Director. While Governor Jay Inslee did not grant the legislators’ request to rescind the appointment of WSLCB Board Member Russ Hauge, he said the agency would hire “an independent consultant to review its enforcement practices.” After WSLCB declared its intention to issue an RFP in late March, the legislative workgroup was struck from SB 5318 as the bill was passed out of the House Commerce and Gaming Committee.

The introduction of the RFP concludes that the successful vendor will also:

…examine the relationship with licensees.

In addition to internal interviews with WSLCB staff and external interviews with selected licensees and their colleagues beginning in June, Hillard Heintze planned two public engagements the first of which occurred on Tuesday July 30th at Green River College in Auburn. A second event was planned for Spokane Community College in eastern Washington on Wednesday July 31st. The WSLCB helped the consultants secure event locations, but stated their intention to remain uninvolved: “WSLCB chose this third-party, neutral vendor to lead this effort to ensure 100 percent unbiased data gathering. LCB staff will not be present at these forums.”

Engagement Options


Spokane Community College, North Greene Street, Spokane, WA, USA