The three-member board of the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) and agency leadership meet weekly as the Executive Management Team to facilitate coordination between the appointed Board and staff.
Home delivery of medical cannabis study, WSLCB's evolving product approval process, and updates from agency leadership.
Here are some observations from the November 28th WSLCB Executive Management Team meeting.
My top 3 takeaways:
- Chris Thompson, WSLCB Director of Legislative Relations, and Research Consultant Trecia Ehrlich presented the agency’s draft Home Delivery of Medical Cannabis Study (audio – 48m).
- The study was requested by the legislature at the behest of Representative Shelley Kloba who had sponsored a bill on the topic. WSLCB was required to study the topic and issue a report.
- Staff reviewed statistics from the medical patient registry database, other states’ delivery systems, input from 50 stakeholders, a stakeholder meeting, and recent feedback from the Department of Health (DOH).
- The DOH registry database currently documents 15 thousand patients statewide.
- Patient purchases account for 1.6% of the state’s cannabis market. Ehrlich added patients can purchase any cannabis products, and that medically compliant product sales made up less than 1% of the state’s market.
- Ehrlich also noted that the language mandating this report was unclear if the intent was delivery of only medically compliant products, or delivery of any cannabis products to patients. Staff has heard from Representative Kloba that the intention was delivery of any products to patients.
- The report weighs policy impacts such as security and driver safety; challenges for the industry; vehicle and packaging requirements; availability of compliant products; patient expectations and concerns; and enforcement, oversight, and fiscal impact to the agency.
- Staff discussed the potential cost at length. Using a fiscal note from previous legislation to estimate $1,345,000 in fixed and variable costs for the agency over the first biennium, a consensus emerged that the fiscal note didn’t reflect the structure of their proposed regulations, and might overestimate oversight costs.
- The report also notes topics aside from home delivery that were of concern to the patient community such as more compliant product availability; improved testing frequency and accuracy; legalization of adult home growing and/or farmers markets; stronger recall protocols for products with pesticide contamination; better cannabis consultant training; and patient exemption from any taxes on cannabis products.
- The report is entering its 7th draft and Thompson anticipated an 8th draft. The Governor’s Office will review the final draft prior to it’s official submission to the legislature. Thompson noted the report may miss it’s December 1st deadline by several days, but the legislature would waive the deadline so long as official submission happened prior to the new year. Cannabis Observer obtained a previous draft of the report shared with stakeholders at the end of October.
- WSLCB will brief the House Commerce and Gaming Committee on the report on Monday, December 3rd at 1:30pm in Olympia.
- WSLCB staff reviewed the history and current status of proposed cannabis product, packaging, and labeling approval process changes (audio – 42m).
- Director of Licensing and Regulation Becky Smith and Compliance and Policy Manager Nicola Reid described the agency’s ongoing exchange with three trade associations and the evolution of the agency proposal which began with the surprise announcement of a re-evaluation of marijuana infused edible (MIE) approvals at the October 3rd board meeting.
- Reid outlined the initial proposal from the former coalition of trade associations and walked through the agency’s draft issue brief.
- Reid described the trade associations’ most recent feedback on the draft issue brief and her team’s planned response. WSLCB intends to host conversations with the trade associations to outline the agency’s decisions and implementation steps.
- Cannabis Observer will continue to dig into this emerging story and its expanding industry impacts in our series of MIE updates.
- Board Member Russ Hauge, Deputy Director Pat Kohler, and Enforcement Chief Justin Nordhorn updated the leadership team.
- Member Hauge will meet with the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington when the Board travels to Spokane in January (audio – 1m).
- Deputy Director Kohler, who recently announced she is leaving the agency in mid-December, shared two updates (audio – 2m). The Canopy Team is preparing a plan with Enforcement and Licensing in response to confirmation of 48 producers over their canopy allocations. And the next MJ Freeway Leaf traceability system update, most recently contracted for release in early November, is back in WSLCB’s test environment.
- Chief Nordhorn said he is in communication with cannabis retailer Uncle Ike’s regarding their independent testing of cannabis products. He has asked Commander Jennifer Dzubay to be Enforcement’s liaison with the retailer (audio – 1m).
Director of Licensing and Regulation Becky Smith and Compliance and Policy Manager Nicola Reid presented WSLCB’s revised second issue brief.
- (audio – 42m, transcript)
- In our last edibles update (Nov 27), we drew attention to the WSLCB statement that “…a final draft [of the issue brief] will be brought before the Board on November 28th to be considered for approval” – yet the board meeting agenda was silent on this topic.
- At that time, engaged stakeholders had just provided feedback to the WSLCB, so we admitted: “…it could be worthwhile for agency staff and the Board to take more than two working days to incorporate feedback from trade associations – and the public.”
- As it turned out, WSLCB staffers did present a revised issue brief to the Board on the 28th – during the weekly Executive Management Team (EMT) meeting. EMT meetings and the Board’s weekly caucuses are not broadcast nor recorded by the agency and have no readily accessible documentation of the content of their proceedings. Cannabis Observer was present.
- During the presentation and discussion, Smith and Reid described the history and specifics of the agency’s dialogue with the engaged trade associations (WACA, CORE, and The Cannabis Alliance).
- Smith and Reid then walked through their second draft issue brief which outlined the agency’s response to feedback from the trade associations. As the trade associations were no longer united in their positions, the ten-page memo described responses for WACA/CORE separately from responses to The Cannabis Alliance.
- At this point, the agency had already decided the concessions they were willing to make (e.g., three accent colors instead of one) and the positions they would hold firm (e.g., “dull” shall be defined by Merriam-Webster).
Notably, this conversation included the first public mention of a parallel dialogue with prevention community group(s) to gather and consider their perspective on cannabis product, packaging and labeling rules.
- Board Chair Jane Rushford raised her “concern that they’re not represented in some way” although the focus of the presentation was dialogue with the trade associations.
- Earlier that month, Chair Rushford attended a prevention community conference with outgoing WSLCB Public Health and Education Liaison Mary Segawa and incoming WSLCB Public Health and Education Liaison Scott McCarty. McCarty now occupies one of five seats on the WSLCB’s internal product, packaging, and labeling review board.
- The primary prevention community group in dialogue with WSLCB appears to be the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention (WASAVP). Here is WASAVP’s August 12th MIE complaint email and formal comment, the only MIE complaint filed by an organization thus far identified by Cannabis Observer.
- Smith agreed to incorporate feedback from the prevention group(s): “we’ll provide, the information back to all of you with some changes as far as the prevention community, we’ll include that in, in this.” A WSLCB document outlining WASAVP’s proposals and MIE examples was shared with the trade associations in early December.
- Smith concluded the presentation saying, “…we’d like to move forward, in, in making some interim, you know, interim rule changes, Board policies.” Two weeks later (Dec 12), three board interim policies were adopted.