WSLCB - Board Meeting
(September 1, 2021)

Wednesday September 1, 2021 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM Observed
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The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) convenes a meeting of the three-member Board every two weeks to consider formal rulemaking actions and hear public testimony.

Engagement Options

Phone

Number: 1.564.999.2000
Conference ID: 297 977 947

Observations

The board said farewell to the agency public health education liaison and approved revisions to the scoring regime for criminal history background checks on license application and renewal.

Here are some observations from the Wednesday September 1st Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) Board Meeting.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • Public Health Education Liaison Sara Cooley Broschart gave her last “health and education update” before leaving the agency for a position at a newly created national center “to support states and communities in implementing population-level prevention strategies that address alcohol use.”
    • Board Chair David Postman introduced Broschart by saying “after a little more than two years” this would be her final update as the Public Health Education Liaison. Postman called her a “consistent and strong voice for public health and prevention” who had made a “huge difference in my education” since he joined the board on March 16th (audio - 1m, video).
    • Broschart offered that it was with “incredibly mixed emotions that I’ve let everybody know” she was leaving to work as “director of a brand-new [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] CDC-funded center to support states and communities in implementing population-level prevention strategies that address alcohol use.” The center had not yet been named, she clarified, but she was invigorated by being able to focus “on just one” substance, as opposed to the four substances under the authority of WSLCB (audio - 5m, video). 
      • The new institution would be a “bridge between all the data and research that comes out,” Broschart noted, “and the communities and decision makers who are looking for support for policy change.” Saying she was “excited” about being an educational resource for local jurisdictions, she relayed that her last day with the agency would be Friday September 3rd.
      • “I just actually want to take the time today to formally thank you and the leadership,” Broschart told board members, “and just all the folks that I’ve worked with.” Though it was “challenging work with such emerging issues,” she’d learned many things, and appreciated seeing “first-hand how regulators and the regulatory process works.” Broschart complimented agency leaders for adding a “public health lens into decision making, at the top levels, and just, kind of, all the way down.” She also noted that the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC), which was renamed on August 2nd, had created a position similar to a Public Health Education Liaison, and that she hoped other states would follow suit “as the public health piece is really recognized.”
        • Broschart noted that five other states with alcohol regulating agencies had a public health position similar to hers, whereas in January 2020 she’d stated Washington was “one of only two states in the nation that have a public health or prevention person on their staff.”
      • In what she described as “a very tough decision,” Broschart was convinced she would have regretted passing the opportunity up. She had enjoyed “great collaborations” with other state agencies and believed other WSLCB staff now had better relationships there as well. Broschart highlighted her contributions to the state response to Vaping Associated Lung Injuries (VALI) in 2019 and progress to “bring public health folks into the process” of agency rule development as some “great gains” during her tenure. She added that some “commendable” policies at WSLCB “really should be the benchmarks for states across the nation.”
      • Broschart would stay in Washington state, she told the board, and continue to be a resource for officials. She confirmed that a review of candidates to replace her was underway but the post was “still open.” Broschart offered to speak to anyone interested in applying that wanted to know her impression of the agency, and she’d help bring whomever succeeded her “up to speed.”
        • A job posting for the Public Health Education Liaison position was published on August 20th.
      • Board Member Russ Hauge stated that it had been “a real pleasure” working with Broschart and that he hoped whomever was hired for her position next could “at least partially fill” the role she’d had at WSLCB (audio - <1m, video).
      • Board Member Ollie Garrett expressed her gratitude to Broschart, saying she’d “enjoyed working with” her and that she wished her “the best on your new adventure” (audio - <1m, video).
      • Postman, half-joking, wondered if it would be named “the Sara Cooley Broschart Center for Alcohol Abuse Research,” and thanked Broschart again for her work at WSLCB and “what you’ve done throughout your career.” He was appreciative of her assistance identifying candidates and ensuring the person selected got “up to speed.” Postman assured the public that there would be “no lagging” of agency staff commitment to “public health and prevention.” He found it a “mixed blessing” to have employees of high caliber such that “other people want to come and cherry-pick them” for job opportunities (audio - 1m, video).
  • Policy and Rules Coordinator Jeff Kildahl presented the board with a CR-103 to adopt changes to Criminal History rules intended to assist eventual social equity retail applicants (audio - 2m, video, Rulemaking Project).
    • Kildahl explained that the changes “revise and more fully describe” the criminal history background checks in WAC 314-55-040 and “moves toward creation of socially equitable conditions for individuals who have been disproportionately impacted” by cannabis criminalization.
    • He said the “point system” in rule, as well as the “review process” had been redesigned in order to “reduce barriers to entry in the legal cannabis market.” Kildahl reviewed the history of the project, which was initiated by the board on February 17th, featured a listen and learn forum on June 1st that gathered “a small amount of feedback,” and featured a public hearing on the CR-102 on August 18th. Having received no other public comments, he said the rule text had “not changed since the original proposal.” With approval of the board, the changes would become effective on October 2nd, added Kildahl.
    • Postman said Kildahl had done “exceptional work” and interpreted the lack of comments as showing “the thoroughness that your group does in reaching out to people in this process.” He reiterated the view that the changes constituted a “step toward a more...socially equitable system” and one way WSLCB officials were continuing to improve the legal cannabis landscape, even if there was “a lot more to do in this area” (audio - 1m, video). 
    • The board gave their unanimous approval to adopt the CR-103 (audio - 1m, video).
    • Later in the meeting during general public comment, Scheril Murray Powell, a “cannabis agricultural and dietary supplement attorney” with a background consulting on cannabis reforms, commended the board’s action. She thought the rule changes could make “your Washington state cannabis industry more inclusive” and equitable. Powell was also the “Business Development Manager for Creative Services, Inc.” (CSI), a background check company, and stated that her firm was willing to help with any implementation challenges as it was “very clear where your hearts and minds were in this implementation” (audio - 2m, video).
  • Jim MacRae, Straight Line Analytics Owner, offered public remarks expressing his concerns about the just passed Criminal History changes and upcoming changes to traceability reporting (audio - 4m, video). 
    • Recalling he’d attempted to offer public comment on August 18th, he had wanted to “caution the board” that “if there’s a desire...to delegate authority for administering [criminal history point assessments] to staff, I would recommend that you not do that.” He argued that while the process could take down “unnecessary barriers to people that have been differentially impacted,” there was also a possibility of “basically forgiving people who were granted licenses that have criminal histories that should have denied them granting of licenses.” MacRae alleged there “was at least one instance” where that had already occurred “with agency knowledge.” He also thought that licensees who avoided a criminal background history check would “use the decision that the courts did on that- that was used in the true parties of interest rule change...to basically be forgiven for their prior sins,” effectively a “get out of jail free card.” Believing the adopted changes added “more administrative layers” where wealthier individuals could spend money on a protracted legal challenge “to get a decision” favorable to them, MacRae pointed out this was the sort of institutional engagement “not available to the very people that this rule is supposed to help.” He asked that board members “keep personal oversight over this for a while” as the process was a “dangerous thing.”
    • MacRae then commented on the ​​Cannabis Central Reporting System (CCRS) outlined publicly on August 11th, asking that the change not go forward “without interactive public comment.” Even though such engagement was not required, he assumed “you do not want it, or someone within the agency does not want it.” MacRae believed that should CCRS be implemented “with what little we’ve heard already, it will eliminate the ability of the agency to do industry-wide, normative scoring of things.” Outliers couldn’t be identified, he stated, “because you need all the data together to be able to identify outliers.” If WSLCB representatives were “pulling the old contingency reporting system out of the closet to enable this, please understand that that never worked.” He didn’t believe staff had ever been able to compile the thousands of “disorganized spreadsheets,” Portable Document Format (PDF), and comma-separated values (CSV) files “into an information source.” He concluded the CCRS could inhibit the ability of agency staff and “external parties’” to observe cannabis products in the state “for the public good, public safety, consumer safety.”
      • On July 16th, Cannabis Observer Founder Gregory Foster spoke with WSLCB Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jim Morgan, executive sponsor of the CCRS project, and CIO George Williams about the CCRS. In that conversation, Morgan and Williams stated that CCRS would accept CSV files in a specified format, location, and schedule with validation rules applied when the files were imported into a database. Data requested would be minimized to information necessary to ensure compliance and meet the needs of the Enforcement and Education division as well as the Marijuana Examiners unit housed in the Director’s Office. Agency staff were scheduled to host a webinar and provide more specifics on September 8th, and asked that questions be emailed in advance to CCRS@lcb.wa.gov.
    • Postman shared his impression that there was a “committee on CCRS, but we’ll find out” and “follow up on that” (audio - <1m, video).
      • Postman may have been referring to the Traceability 2.0 Work Group that most recently met on March 2nd, which would comport with language on the CCRS landing screen on the WSLCB website which stated, “Beginning in 2019, LCB staff worked closely and collaboratively with stakeholders that included producers, processors, retailers, integrators, labs and others to identify the future state of traceability. Many of you will remember that work was part of the Board’s Cannabis 2.0 initiative.”
      • During the March 16th board caucus, staff gave a presentation describing recommendations for redesigning the traceability system, which had been the primary focus and effort of the Traceability 2.0 Work Group. The presentation described the outcomes of work group deliberations such as:
        • Modifying “lot and batch size constraints,” “unique identifier and tagging requirements,” “QA test reporting requirements,” “technology controls,” and “transportation controls.”
        • “Those reporting on behalf of licensees, including third-party integrators and labs, must be authorized representatives of the licensee.”
        • A “Reduction of licensee services,” including no longer providing inventory management software, manifests, and provisioning of globally unique identifiers (GUIDs).
      • However, at the end of the presentation agency staff shared their conclusion---first divulged at the last meeting of the work group---that they did not believe a revised traceability system could be achieved prior to the end of the MJ Freeway subscription services contract in June 2022 without an interim step: the CCRS. The agency presentation goes on to describe an objective to “Replace Leaf with interim central reporting system” because:
        • “Leaf is not sustainable
        • Previous rushed and unfocused replacements were not successful
        • New program requirements need to be firmly established before technology strategy is developed
        • Central reporting solution previously built and shelved for contingency purposes can be used until long-term solution is in place”
      • Deputy Director Megan Duffy said “staff and external stakeholders, and others believe, right, it’s time to evolve our traceability approach” and the board informally approved proceeding with the proposal (audio - 2m). Traceability 2.0 Work Group stakeholder members did not suggest and were not involved in the development of the CCRS.

Information Set