DOE - Cannabis Science Task Force Steering Committee
(October 1, 2021)

Friday October 1, 2021 1:00 PM - 4:30 PM Observed
Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) Logo

The Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) Cannabis Science Task Force (CSTF) Steering Committee is the leadership committee affecting the transition of responsibility for cannabis testing lab accreditation from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) to the DOE. In the absence of federal guidance, the Committee is also helping bolster cannabis testing lab standards.

Engagement Options

Webinar

Event number: 2464 982 1047
Password: Science1

Phone

Number: 1-415-655-0001
Access code: 2464 982 1047

Observations

A request bill to modify the timeline for Ecology to take on lab accreditation was shelved following “stakeholder research,” while potential legislation to create a lab standards body carried on.

Here are some observations from the Friday October 1st Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) Cannabis Science Task Force (CSTF) Steering Committee public meeting.

My top 2 takeaways:

  • Annette Hoffmann, DOE Environmental Assessment Program Manager and CSTF Chair, acknowledged that department staff would not pursue previously announced agency request legislation to modify the timeline to implement a cannabis lab accreditation program.
    • On August 5th, Jennifer Carlson, DOE Environmental Assessment Program Manager and policy coordinator for the CSTF, presented the draft bill to the steering committee, stating it brought “more clarity and more detail” to implementation steps needed for the participating agencies: DOE, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB), and the Washington State Department of Health (DOH).
      • The legislative proposal would have erased the July 1st, 2024 deadline for transfer of lab accreditation authority from statute and instead have DOE staff take on the responsibility only after three benchmarks had been met.”
        • “The new lab standards will be placed into rule” by WSDA policy staff
        • “We have the formation of” the interagency coordination team (ICT)
        • “The availability of in-matrix cannabis proficiency tests for pesticides, potency, and residual solvents”
      • During that meeting, the response from private lab representatives was less than enthusiastic. Along with several questions about how the deadline could be “three years out and we’re already pushing the timeline back,” one cannabis lab representative commented that “the longer this takes, the less trust that the consumers and the producers and processors have in the science that’s going on in the state.” Hoffmann remarked that it remained possible to meet the initial deadline for transfer of accreditation powers.
    • On September 23rd during an external engagement at the Washington State Cannabis Summit, WSLCB Board Chair David Postman remarked that he hadn’t known about the DOE proposal until learning about it from Cannabis Alliance leadership and had “found it concerning.” He added that staff worked with “people in other agencies and within a matter of days they found a better path.”
    • In the October 1st discussion, Hoffmann briefly brought up the potential bill to “amend the timeline...so that we wouldn’t get the cart before the horse.” Following the presentation to the steering committee, she said, “we did some stakeholder research” and found “we weren’t able to garner enough support for it to move forward this year” (audio - 1m).
  • The committee then learned about the status of a draft request bill to create an interagency coordination team (ICT) to define cannabis testing lab standards which would be proposed jointly by WSLCB and WSDA.
    • The concept was reviewed in a March 23rd presentation on implementation of task force recommendations by Carlson. Agency staff from WSDA, WSLCB, and DOH would comprise the ICT, which would be responsible for defining lab standards for encoding by WSDA policy staff. The ICT would serve as the “client” responsible for deciding the criteria to be implemented in a DOE lab accreditation program.
    • At the CSTF Steering Committee meeting, WSLCB Cannabis Examiner Manager Kendra Hodgson said the request legislation for the ICT was moving ahead after composition by WSLCB and WSDA officials. Stakeholder comments were requested for “the first version of that draft,” though she observed it was “a really short” period (audio - 1m).
      • Stakeholder input resulted in “some additional edits made” which agency representatives had agreed to. She explained, “I think we’re actually getting really close to having what we think is a package” that can be used to justify introducing the bill in the 2022 legislative session. Hodgson described how the agency request bill would “make an official transfer for lab standards authority to the Department of Agriculture, and also under that bill, create the ICT.”
      • Hodgson expected the request bill would be considered by lawmakers “in January” after receiving confirmation through the Bill Analysis and Tracking System (BATS) that the request package was approved by the Governor’s Office and a primary sponsor was recruited.
    • Hoffmann lauded the interagency collaboration that had already occurred in creating the ICT request package, framing the situation as "good government at work." Even if the request bill “seems like an easy thing,” she commented, it took agency time and expertise, a testament to “how well this task force has worked.” Hoffmann found the group had accomplished a lot since their inaugural meeting in August 2019. “This is the next implementation step,” she said, and it was “great to see it working so well” (audio - 2m). 
    • Bobby Hines, Confidence Analytics Chief Technical Officer and CSTF Steering Committee alternate for CEO Nick Mosely, inquired about the FTEs being requested for the ICT, specifically “what type of staff each agency is hoping to have” (audio - 3m).
      • Hodgson stated that WSLCB would look for “a part of an FTE connected to management...for the work that’s going to have to go on, and new subject matter experts in the chemist classification.” Overall, she expected 2.5 FTEs to be added to the agency workforce.
      • Hodgson also talked about the WSDA budget request, remarking that department staff work was expected to be “happening at the policy level." She promised to take that back with Kelly McLain [WSDA Policy Advisor to the Director], who has been our contact...and see what else I can source for folks.” Hines felt a clear answer on staffing was “good for transparency,” Hoffmann added the “legislative process has a lot of transparency built into it,” such as fiscal notes, so stakeholders would have “a lot of clarity."
      • 2022 supplemental budget requests show the three agencies would seek funds for more than a dozen full-time equivalent (FTE) staff for the ICT.
        • DOH - “funding three DOH positions, including a chemist, epidemiologist and a microbiologist, to participate on the ICT to implement and maintain the task force proposal, as well as provide the expertise to facilitate and maintain the adopted lab quality standards.”
          • 2021-23 Biennium: 2.9 FTEs
          • 2023-25 Biennium: 5.4 FTEs
        • WSDA - The department did not specify staff roles or responsibilities in its budget request.
          • 2021-23 Biennium: 5 FTEs
          • 2023-25 Biennium: 5 FTEs
        • WSLCB - “This decision package will fund the ongoing costs of the LCB’s members in the inter­agency team of scientific staff. Those positions include 2.5 FTEs; 0.5 WMS II, and 2.0 chemists. Most of the costs are salaries and benefits but there are associated costs that include laptop leases, phone lines, office supplies, travel, and other small miscellaneous items. There is also a minimal, one­time cost component in FY23 for startup costs that include desk chairs, phones, monitors and other small miscellaneous items.”
          • 2021-23 Biennium: 1.25 FTEs
          • 2023-25 Biennium: 2.5 FTEs
    • On October 21st, the Washington State House Commerce and Gaming Committee (WA House COG) convened a meeting on “Cannabis Regulatory Issues and Implementation of Recent Legislation” with state agencies and cannabis trade associations. During the meeting Hodgson gave an update on testing labs inclusive of the CSTF timeline, stating that the ICT request bill would be “critical legislation” in 2022 (audio - 6m).
      • The bill was a “multi-agency effort to move recommendations from the cannabis science task force forward,” she said, giving a general description of what the ICT was intended to achieve. The ICT “was outlined in the first cannabis science task force report” to the legislature in July 2020, Hodgson indicated, and was “part of those implementation efforts to keep moving forward.”
      • Hodgson said there was “quite a bit of work to do,” but collaboration continued towards “the successful transfer of lab accreditation to the Department of Ecology in 2024.”
    • The next CSTF steering committee meeting was scheduled for Monday October 25th. The agenda shows committee members would hear work group updates, learn more about the next legislative report, and dedicate 30 minutes to “Sun Setting the Task Force.”

Information Set