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.
Legislative and regulatory updates, an upcoming work session on social equity, and Cannabis 2.0 planning.
Here are some observations from the Tuesday April 16th WSLCB Board Caucus.
My top 3 takeaways:
- Agency Director Rick Garza discussed legislative and regulatory activity (audio – 23m).
- At the legislature, Garza had been closely watching activity on the state budget and noted the House and Senate weren’t in agreement on the agency’s budget allocation. Garza said cuts in the Senate version would likely excise $600,000 of the agency’s funds (0.4%), a sum Rushford said was “not devastating.” Garza intended to speak with Director of Legislative Relations Chris Thompson to ask if the funding cut was related to the projected costs of enforcement reforms in SB 5318 which totaled $1.3M for the 2019-2021 biennium for five full-time Enforcement personnel as estimated in WSLCB’s fiscal note for the bill.
- Garza pointed out that HB 2052 on lab accreditation was “moving forward as we wanted.” He noted similar feelings on HB 1430, the systems modernization project (SMP) account extension.
- Board Member Ollie Garrett stated that she’d talked with Director of Licensing and Regulation Becky Smith about reviewing legislation supported by the industry that hadn’t moved forward this year to “see if there’s something there that we can start working on for them that doesn’t have to wait until next session to go out.” She said that Thompson would be involved as well. Garza agreed the strategy made sense.
- Garrett said two labs requested a seat on the Cannabis Advisory Council (CAC) and she was considering adding one lab seat before the next meeting.
- At publication time, the next CAC meeting had not been scheduled.
- Garza and Garrett discussed a training curriculum created by enforcement officers in the agency’s Spokane office that offered a potential model for a voluntary budtender training program. Garza said the enforcement program was led by Lieutenant Rob Reynolds, had been around “for about a year,” and would be a good conversation for an EMT meeting. Garrett suggested they review administrative violation notices (AVNs) for the region, and Garza informed the Board that the region’s compliance rates were “significantly higher.”
- The next Regulators Roundtable will be hosted by the State of Alaska on July 22nd and 23rd. The event is limited in space due to the increasing number of invitations extended to North American jurisdictions which have legalized cannabis. Policy and Rules Coordinator Kathy Hoffman, Cannabis Examiner Manager Kendra Hodgson, and Garza planned to represent Washington. WSLCB intended to request more spots if other jurisdictions chose not to attend, in which case Board Chair Jane Rushford would participate. Rushford requested a comprehensive report from the group on what she expected would be a “rich” discussion.
- See Board Member Russ Hauge’s comments about the previous Regulators Roundtable event in Denver last May.
- Garrett asked about legislative efforts to legalize cannabis in New York, noting the Empire State’s effort was likely postponed until June after laying serious groundwork earlier in the year.
- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently said on Albany radio station WAMC: “We will get marijuana done, it’s not a question of political desire, it’s a question of practical reality of how you put the new system in place.”
- Board Member Ollie Garrett described plans for the May 1st Executive Management Team (EMT) discussion on small business and social equity (audio – 8m).
- Garrett explained she was working with Becky Smith, Policy Analyst and Tribal Liaison Brett Cain, and others to prepare for the conversation. She said the team “really [has] thought through some recommendations.”
- Garrett reported she had intended to meet with Lisa van der Lugt, Executive Director of the Washington State Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises (OMWBE), but the meeting was postponed so OMWBE could study Massachusetts’ recent diversity efforts and that state’s equity programs.
- Garrett expected to hear from Smith about a potential survey of municipalities to gauge interest in additional retail stores or re-licensing retail forfeitures with an eye towards minority ownership. Garrett warned against “setting anyone up for failure just to say ‘We’ve gotten into the industry.’”
- Garrett told the group she’d be attending an Initiative 1000 (I-1000) hearing on “diversity, equity, and inclusion” this Thursday at 8am at the capitol in Olympia where she anticipated hearing from the current and former Washington State governors.
- Board Chair Jane Rushford described the schedule of planned sessions for the Cannabis 2.0 project (audio – 13m).
- Cannabis Observer previously described the Cannabis 2.0 project as “an effort to assess the agency’s regulation of cannabis over the past five years, incorporate lessons learned (including from states which legalized after the trail blazers), and develop an inclusive legislative program for the 2020 session to better position Washington State for success in the years ahead.”
- Rushford said the Cannabis 2.0 project launches Wednesday April 17th “with members of the Management Team.”
- The “Management Team” is not the “Executive Management Team” which meets publicly. Cannabis Observer has not confirmed the composition of the Management Team, but has gleaned it only includes agency staff and possibly only the agency staff which report to the Deputy Director. If our interpretation is correct, the Board Chair, and any Board Member, would be a guest and not a regular participant at these meetings.
- Rushford said she would update the other Board Members the following Tuesday April 23rd: “I’ll bring to Caucus next week, the outcomes from the first meeting. And then we’ll start the cycle of building on those concepts for priorities.”
- Rushford planned a “quick review of the Cannabis 2.0 meeting” with the Executive Management Team (EMT) at their next bi-weekly meeting, which circumstances had pushed out to Wednesday May 1st.
- The next EMT meeting (April 24th) had already been canceled as it conflicts with the first meeting of the newly reconstituted WSLCB Tribal Advisory Council. Russ Hauge is the Board Sponsor for the council, and will travel to chair the meeting (agenda) at the Suquamish Clearwater Resort in Kitsap County, where Hauge was the Prosecuting Attorney for exactly 20 years (January 1, 1995 – December 31, 2014).