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.
The latest on all open rulemaking projects including a signal that WSLCB intends to modify vapor product regulation in response to a widely publicized health scare.
Here are some observations from the Wednesday September 18th Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) Board Meeting.
My top 3 takeaways:
- Policy and Rules Coordinator Kathy Hoffman summarized all open cannabis rulemaking projects, noting draft rules for packaging and labeling would be released soon while definitions for true parties of interest had been slow to coalesce (audio – 4m, video).
- Hoffman’s last rulemaking update was during the August 21st Board Meeting.
- Cannabis Penalties (WSR 18-22-099). Hoffman said the final draft conceptual rules for redesigned penalties were sent to stakeholders on August 29th. She commented that the rulemaking process, which implemented portions of SB 5318, had received “positive feedback” and her timeline hadn’t changed. A listen and learn forum was scheduled for September 26th. She expected to file proposed rules as a CR-102 in mid-November.
- Voluntary Compliance Program (WSR 19-15-074). Hoffman had yet to receive any new comments since she’d reported the first two, one supportive and the other critical, in early August. She said a project team was being assembled and would be “up and running” by the end of the month.
- True Party of Interest (TPI, WSR 18-22-054). The agency had been close to defining a CR-102 back in January, but waited to include implementation of HB 1794. Hoffman said she would be meeting with an external stakeholder work group later that day to go over rule drafts but “progress with that has been rather slow.” She articulated one challenge was finding industry-accepted definitions for terms such as “residency” and “control” of a cannabis license, a struggle Hoffman first publicly acknowledged in June. She expected to file a CR-102 by mid-November at the same time as the revised Cannabis Penalty rules.
- Quality Assurance (QA) Testing and Product Requirements (WSR 18-17-041). Hoffman said the QA listen and learn session on August 22nd was constructive and the agency “would go through the 18 month phase-in plan” for compliance with new rules. Hoffman planned to meet with the WSLCB Marijuana Examiners the following week to review comments they’d received, go through a final draft, and share it with the cannabis industry. She anticipated a CR-102 would be ready by the end of October because a Small Business Economic Impact Statement (SBEIS) and Significant Analysis would be “pretty time consuming.”
- Packaging and Labeling (PAL, WSR 19-12-029). Hoffman reported that the agency’s internal workgroup had produced a “really nice set” of draft conceptual rules which were “really different than what we had before.” She believed the draft would be ready for release the following week and from there Hoffman would lead a listen and learn forum scheduled for October 4th. Only one session was planned because of the agency’s “concern for concentrates.” She predicted an effective date of January 1st, 2020 to comply with mandates in SB 5298.
- Hoffman signaled the agency’s intention to modify vapor product regulation through an open rulemaking project in response to concerns raised following a rash of correlated health impacts attributed to vaping (audio – 1m, video).
- See Cannabis Observer’s coverage of the Board’s reactions leading up to and after confirmation of the first case of a vaping-related lung illness in Washington on September 11th.
- WSLCB added a “Vapor and Public Health” screen to their website which indicated steps the agency was taking to address the health scare. Under the heading “Working with Industry and Public Health” the agency reported: “LCB staff recently met with cannabis and vapor industry representatives to learn more about how vapor products are processed, where additives are sourced, as well as ways we may collaborate on this important public health issue.”
- WSLCB convened the first meeting of this group on Friday September 13th at the agency and via webinar. Public Health Education Liaison Sara Cooley Broschart organized the agency’s outreach and led the meeting.
- At publication time, the roster of invited cannabis and vapor industry representatives was not precisely known to Cannabis Observer, but appeared to include the Cannabis Alliance, the Washington CannaBusiness Association (WACA), the Washington SunGrowers Industry Association (WSIA), and the Vapor Technology Association (VTA). The Office of the Governor was also represented at the meeting.
- Later on Friday September 13th, WSIA sent a notice to its email subscribers which provided a summary of subjects discussed at the meeting. The trade association summarized known information about the health scare and suggested “What should licensees do to prepare for the WSLCB’s response?”
- In their message, the WSIA indicated “The WSLCB is considering distribution of informational signage & materials to retailers for distribution to the public.” A draft of the proposed retail signage and a draft message addressed to licensees titled “Vaping — Industry Message III” were distributed for comment on Wednesday September 18th.
- On Friday September 20th, the group was scheduled to convene again.
- Vapor Product Rules (WSR 19-13-036). Hoffman said the previously opened rulemaking project was the “most important” one of the week. The project was initiated to define new restrictions and taxes on vapor products to implement HB 1874 and HB 1074. Newly proposed rules were “in [Washington State Office of the] Attorney General review right now” and Hoffman expected to bring a CR-102 before the Board on October 2nd. She hinted, “the authority that we have in our vapor rules isn’t quite as extensive as we’d like given the current climate, but it’s the best we could do under the circumstances.”
- Don Skakie testified to disparities in how the agency regulates alcohol product labeling compared to cannabis (audio – 5m, video).
- Skakie, a cannabis patient advocate from Renton, recently addressed the Board in May. He also participated in the QA listen and learn session in August.
- Skakie framed his comments on alcohol regulation in relation to the vaping health scare, noting how state governors in Michigan, New York, and California had taken action or signaled support for banning flavored vape products ahead of the federal government’s intention to “[clear] the market of unauthorized, non-tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products.”
- On Monday September 16th, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) announced two additional confirmed cases of vaping related illness in Spokane County identified by the Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD). DOH created a “Severe Lung Illness” webpage to track cases the department was investigating. At publication time, three hospitalizations in Washington state met the federally defined “2019 Lung Injury Surveillance Case Definition.”
- As of Tuesday September 17th, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had documented “530…cases of lung injury” from 39 states and one U.S. territory as well as “Seven deaths…confirmed in California (2), Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, and Oregon.”
- Skakie believed the WSLCB was in a position to do more to protect the health of children and adults. He said he’d photographed alcohol displays at his local grocery store and sent them to the Board showing “brightly colored” packaging with “fruits and other flavors” that wouldn’t be compliant under Washington’s cannabis packaging and labeling rules. Skakie called attention to the Board’s mission statement which he claimed promoted “fair administration” among the products they regulate. He asked the Board to consider aligning cannabis packaging rules with alcohol.
- Skakie said his neighborhood QFC had a “separate area” for alcohol with continual staffing while his Albertsons left alcohol slightly more accessible, but featured several locked cases as well. All of this led Skakie to feel there were “concerns across product lines” and uneven expectations “about what children are exposed to.”
- Board Chair Jane Rushford strongly agreed that “those exposures are concerning” and asked staff to talk with him after the meeting about the kind of rules WSLCB currently had in place.