WSLCB - Board Caucus
(June 4, 2024)

Tuesday June 4, 2024 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM Observed
WSLCB Enforcement Logo

The three-member board of the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) meets weekly in caucus to discuss current issues and receive invited briefings from agency staff.


State interest in better cannabis education for budtenders and consumers came up when officials briefed board members on a survey conducted between 2023 and 2024.

Here are some observations from the Tuesday June 4th Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) Board Caucus.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • Staffers introduced the background to responses from a cannabis consumer opinion survey conducted in the end of 2023 and beginning of 2024 which appeared to overrepresent daily consumers and retail budtenders.
    • Research Manager Sarah Okey established that Washington State Department of Health (DOH) Research Investigator Sally Riggs and Epidemiologist Jordan Arias had joined her to present the findings. Additionally, she noted “other key partners who have been involved in this survey since its start…Nikki Meline, DOH's Social Marketing and Public Health Campaign Manager as well as some of our own LCB folks, including [Public Health Education Liaison] Kristen Haley, who actually started being involved in this survey when she was at the DOH.” Okey also credited WSLCB Data Consultant Supervisor Brian McQuay (audio - 2m, video - TVW).
    • Riggs framed the survey as “developed out of an interest to improve public health and safety education,” and a hope to “better understand” what adult consumers knew or thought about legal cannabis products. “We also wanted to determine the extent to which cannabis consumers were interested in receiving educational materials and the best way to provide the information,” she commented. Riggs further suggested the “effort will help inform educational campaigns that provide scientifically accurate information about the health and safety risks posed by cannabis use” (audio - 4m, video - TVW, presentation).
      • Riggs observed the survey had been a “collaboration” between WSLCB and DOH, and used REDCap, an “online survey development tool” which was compliant with applicable federal health privacy requirements. She indicated the survey gathered 437 responses between September 18th, 2023, and January 14th, 2024 after being sent to all retailers along with a request for them to advertise the opportunity to share in “highly visible locations around the store.”
      • The responses which came in were “not a representative sample, but respondents lived across Washington,” she cautioned. Although responses “were similar to Washington's census demographic data,” the average age of respondents was 40, “about half were women and the majority were White,” Riggs indicated. She relayed that the highest rates of participation in the survey were in western Washington, and two thirds of respondents were “frequent cannabis users, over half reported using cannabis multiple times a day.” Additionally, Riggs told board members “respondents prefer flower and use flower most frequently…consistent with prior studies, and suggests that the sample may be similar to the broader population of legal adult cannabis consumers.”
      • “We asked survey respondents whether they were employees of the cannabis store and 38% said yes,” Riggs stated, adding that this allowed staff to “better understand similarities and differences between” retail staff and consumers more generally.
  • The officials then reviewed key survey findings, educational approaches, and future steps based on consumer input.
    • Arias shared the findings of the survey and explained the top three items noted by officials included the importance of increasing cannabis information, as there were several “knowledge check questions” used to gauge respondents’ familiarity with State rules on cannabis testing, medical requirements, or product strength. Overall knowledge was low “with employee scoring on average 57% and consumer scoring 43% correct” (audio - 5m, video - TVW).
      • The second theme staff picked up on was “that people are interested in learning about the cannabis products that they use,” Arias said. He shared a chart of the topics which respondents most wanted to know about, including “how to read labels on cannabis packaging, the health effects, the availability of lockboxes and the consequences of driving under the influence” of greatest interest.
      • The last pattern WSLCB and DOH representatives found was that packaging and budtenders were the main sources for consumer knowledge about a product’s content. 84% of respondents answered that they read a product label, Arias remarked, “either often or always. And when we asked about the information that they looked for, the majority responded with the strain or cultivar name, [tetrahydrocannabinol] THC content, total cannabinoids, the company name and [cannabidiol] CBD” content.” When given the chance to suggest information which might be relevant to included in product labeling, he mentioned “growing mediums, solvents and pesticides, whether the product was organic or not harvest and packaging date and terpenes.”
      • “91% of the respondents asked questions to budtenders when making a purchase,” Arias noted. The vast majority of those surveyed found budtender information helpful, even though their scoring on knowledge check questions was only somewhat higher than consumers generally, he added. Arias argued this “highlights the need for…budtenders to gain further knowledge about safer use.”
      • When asked about “the level of importance for different factors” in cannabis products, budtenders specified appearance, production method, cultivar, and manufacturer. Arias reported there’d been “only one factor that was rated more highly for consumers than for employees, and that was the THC content.” He felt this distinction in priorities emphasized “an important harm reduction point on de-emphasizing THC.”
    • Okey offered the survey results as evidence “that legal users have both limited knowledge and misinformation related to cannabis.” She regarded this as reasonable given the “unprecedented changes that have occurred around legalization” and because conducting research on the plant remained challenging. The positive news for Okey was that consumers did want to know more, and were “likely to be interested if LCB or DOH develops effective strategies to increase informed decision making and encourage safer use” (audio - 5m, video - TVW).
      • One educational strategy Okey suggested was setting up a cannabis counterpart to the Mandatory Alcohol Server Training (MAST) required of employees at bars, stores, or restaurants serving alcohol. A budtender-focused training program could cover topics like health effects, “check IDs, signs of intoxication, and current laws and rules,” she indicated. Okey commented this was of particular interest since budtenders were frequently fielding health questions by customers without any dedicated training on the matter. “Standardized training for those who sell cannabis could allow for more accurate and reliable answers to questions that we know people are already asking,” Okey stated. 
      • According to Okey, another “potential future avenue for increasing knowledge is using labels as sources of information.” She mentioned the mandatory, standardized “Not For Kids” label was already featured “on edible products.” Okey drew attention to the “concept of high THC…a particular area of concern recently” and her impression that consumers thought high THC equated to "high quality, even though research doesn't support that." Okey agreed that data points such as harvest date could be added to labels “to help provide a fuller context of the product quality and de-emphasize THC as the leading purchasing decision.”
      • “Future avenues with the highest chance for success would be those that are evidence based and those that benefit public health, consumers and industry,” said Okey. She offered the example that “if we were able to pull away from the incorrect assumption that high THC means better quality, risks of harm could be reduced, consumers may have a better overall experience with the products they purchase, and the highest quality products within the industry could be more readily recognized.”
    • Okey thanked WSLCB staff, including Haley’s predecessor in the Public Health Education Liaison role, Mary Segawa, for initiating the survey. Okey assured the board the “findings” would be published, and brought up two events where staff planned to present “at the Research Society on Marijuana conference this summer. Brian McQuay also hopes to discuss this at the Washington State Public Health Association conference this fall.” She further promised staff would be “looking into and supporting further research to better understand training opportunities for budtenders…the best labeling practices and how to make those easy to understand and finding ways to promote public health and safety for legal cannabis users” (audio - 1m, video - TVW).
  • Board members posed a series of questions to the presenters around budtender training, consumer literacy, and more.
    • Board Member Ollie Garrett brought up that budtender training had been previously considered by the board. Her memory was that industry representatives didn’t like the idea of training being mandatory. “There were things like ‘must not owe back child support,’” she stated, which were “part of the MAST training that folks didn't agree with.” Garrett wondered about the existing MAST requirements and whether any of them involved delinquent child support payments. She was open to the need for training, as the board had been “proactive in coming up with a budtender training program, [but] it got shot down” (audio - 2m, video - TVW).
    • Board Member Jim Vollendroff believed that rather than replicating the MAST approach for cannabis, creation of a budtender training effort was an appropriate time to update the MAST program as well. He felt it was appropriate to “revise this conversation" with cannabis sector interests given the "findings are strongly suggesting" action on "professionalizing the budtender role" in recognition of the importance of well-informed retail staff to both the business and public health. Vollendroff expected agency staff would put forward a plan to engage cannabis sector voices in the discussion. He also called attention to a meeting he’d had with a representative of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) where the topic of driving impaired by cannabis and/or alcohol remained "concerning" (audio - 2m, video - TVW).
    • Board Chair David Postman was curious whether previous consumer surveys had been conducted by agency staff. Haley replied she’d participated in a DOH/WSLCB survey in 2016 that “mainly informed the consumer education campaign that we subsequently launched. It wasn't as in depth as this one” (audio - 7m, video - TVW).
      • Garrett suggested the prior survey had led to the initial idea of a MAST-like training program for budtenders, provoking the response from some industry leaders that authorities were “telling us and making it mandatory." Okey felt that some time had passed and it was valid to ask industry representatives again.
      • Postman agreed it was worth looking into whether attitudes around budtender training had changed. He further felt the training didn’t have to be mandatory, and could instead involve optional signage to alert a store’s customers that their staff had State training. Postman felt sending additional information to retailers, such as takeaways from their survey, could act as an incentive for business owners to push for more training for their own staff. He regarded the suggestions researchers had made based on the survey to be “very low cost” but a good impetus to engage with licensees and trade associations. Moreover, “we should say when we talk about engaging industry, we're also talking about engaging the public health and prevention people to make sure that these messages really work.” Postman pointed to the launch of new cannabis educational materials from WSLCB, such as the Cannabis Basics and Consumer Use and Safety pages, stating this information moved towards “smart choices, education, and we did bring some disparate groups together, and were able to find some common ground.”
      • Garrett called for updating MAST standards with a greater emphasis on checking identifications. Since budtenders were "mostly a lot of young folks,” she wanted training to be easily accessible through smartphones. Garrett further wanted an explanation of the consequences for a budtender who sold to a minor. Okey agreed any training needed to be engaging, and added that DOH officials were developing the next part of a consumer educational campaign.
      • Consumer opinion was also surveyed in a 2021 report on Washington state by the International Cannabis Policy Study (ICPS) presented to board members in November 2022.
    • Vollendroff hailed the collaboration with DOH in the survey, finding that "consumer literacy" was "something that is being asked for and we should deliver on that " (audio - 1m, video - TVW).
    • Vollendroff also asked if there had been a breakdown of the types of products being used based on age groups. Okey restated that cannabis flower remained the most popular choice, “but we do see concentrates ticking upwards within younger populations as well.” Vollendroff asked to be kept apprised, “that's what I want to know…if that's what it's showing here.” She promised to review the survey responses more closely and get back to him (audio - 1m, video - TVW)
    • When Postman asked about the timeline for sharing the survey, Okey responded that it was expected to be available on the agency website before the end of the week (audio - 1m, video - TVW).


Segment - 01 - Welcome - David Postman (11s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 02 - Review - Lummi Nation Cannabis Compact - Marla Conwell (48s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 03 - Review - Lummi Nation Cannabis Compact - Question - Similarity to Other Compacts - David Postman (1m) InfoSet ]
Segment - 04 - Review - Cannabis Consumer Education Survey - Introduction - Sarah Okey (1m 41s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 05 - Review - Cannabis Consumer Education Survey - Background - Sally Riggs (3m 38s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 06 - Review - Cannabis Consumer Education Survey - Findings - Jordan Arias (5m 16s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 07 - Review - Cannabis Consumer Education Survey - Education Strategies - Sarah Okey (5m 18s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 08 - Review - Cannabis Consumer Education Survey - Next Steps - Sarah Okey (1m 25s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 09 - Review - Cannabis Consumer Education Survey - Question - Budtender Training - Ollie Garrett (2m 15s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 10 - Review - Cannabis Consumer Education Survey - Question - Budtender Training - Jim Vollendroff (2m 9s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 11 - Review - Cannabis Consumer Education Survey - Question - Previous Consumer Survey - David Postman (6m 35s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 12 - Review - Cannabis Consumer Education Survey - Question - Consumer Cannabis Literacy - Jim Vollendroff (41s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 13 - Review - Cannabis Consumer Education Survey - Question - Preferred Product Type By Consumer Age - Jim Vollendroff (1m 3s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 14 - Review - Cannabis Consumer Education Survey - Question - Next Steps - David Postman (36s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 15 - Update - Rulemaking - Daniel Jacobs (39s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 16 - Update - Rulemaking - Cannabis - SB 5080 Implementation - Daniel Jacobs (1m 11s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 17 - Update - Rulemaking - Cannabis - Retail Medical Cannabis Endorsements - Daniel Jacobs (25s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 18 - Update - Rulemaking - Cannabis - HB 1453 Implementation - Daniel Jacobs (14s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 19 - Update - Rulemaking - Cannabis - SB 5367 Implementation - Daniel Jacobs (3s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 20 - Update - Rulemaking Petition - Cannabis - Cylindrical Cannabis Packaging - Daniel Jacobs (20s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 21 - Update - Rulemaking Petition - Cannabis - Social Equity License Mobility - Daniel Jacobs (49s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 22 - Update - Rulemaking - Cannabis - HB 2151 Implementation - Daniel Jacobs (33s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 23 - Update - Rulemaking - Cannabis - Payment Flexibility - Daniel Jacobs (12s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 24 - Update - Rulemaking - Cannabis - SB 5080 Implementation - Daniel Jacobs (16s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 25 - Update - Rulemaking Petition - Cannabis - THC Serving Size - Daniel Jacobs (26s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 26 - Update - Rulemaking - Cannabis - SB 5080 Implementation - Question - License Mobility - Ollie Garrett (1m 19s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 27 - Update - Rulemaking - Cannabis - Payment Flexibility - Daniel Jacobs (1m 1s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 28 - Update - Rulemaking - Cannabis - HB 1453 Implementation - Daniel Jacobs (1m 31s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 29 - Update - Rulemaking - Cannabis - HB 1453 Implementation - Question - Record Keeping Requirements - David Postman (2m 50s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 30 - Update - Rulemaking - Prohibited Conduct - Daniel Jacobs (1m 10s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 31 - Update - Rulemaking - Cannabis - Retail Medical Cannabis Endorsements - Daniel Jacobs (2m 41s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 32 - Update - Rulemaking - Question - Open Surveys - David Postman (54s) InfoSet ]
Segment - 33 - Wrapping Up - David Postman (21s) InfoSet ]

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1025 Union Ave SE, Olympia, WA 98501, USA



Number: 1.564.999.2000
Conference ID: 657 860 284#

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