The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) convenes special caucuses of the three-member Board at irregular times to discuss current issues and receive invited briefings from agency staff.
Observations from the September 19th WSLCB Special Board Caucus including legislative program updates, the home delivery study, & medically compliant products.
Here are some observations from the Wednesday September 19th Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) Special Board Caucus.
My top 3 takeaways:
- WSLCB Director of Legislative Relations Chris Thompson provided a legislative program update (transcript, audio).
- Materials were submitted for four agency request bills: the promoter permit; the enforcement uniformity issue; the Systems Modernization Project account sunset date extension; and the testing lab authority transfer to the Washington State Department of Ecology.
- The LCB requested an extension on the budtender permit agency request to resolve outstanding concerns about harmonizing permit requirements with Department of Health (DOH) medical consultant training areas not concerning health; and changing “may” to “must” suspend permit for noncompliance with a child support order (transcript, audio).
- The program would be administered by LCB and be mandatory.
- Board Member Ollie Garrett prompted a lengthy discussion about the mandatory nature of the permit (like alcohol) and whether licensees were aware of this. Thompson noted that Colorado is moving towards a mandatory permit as well.
- The Board discussed Washington NORML feedback highlighting that the permit may shift the selling to a minor felony risk from licensee to employee – or both.
- The felony was in I-502, limiting the Board’s authority except to shift “our hammer.” Garrett noted employers would still be affected detrimentally by felony penalties on their employees.
- The fiscal note on the budtender training permit stands at $144,000.
- The Board also discussed home delivery during Thompson’s legislative update (transcript, audio).
- The home delivery interim study is due December 1.
- The Board has been gathering information on home delivery regulations from other states. Thompson, Garrett and Board Chair Jane Rushford discussed the demographics of home delivery stakeholders, noting that baby boomers and senior citizens seemed especially interested.
- The Board discussed patient stakeholder input on home delivery.
- WSLCB Enforcement Chief Justin Nordhorn reported on labs and medically compliant products (transcript, audio).
- Board Director Rick Garza asked Nordhorn to supplement his scheduled report with discussions from patients and patient stakeholder groups.
- Nordhorn: “I think what we’re seeing is a sense of frustration across the state about the amount of medically compliant product available…”
- Nordhorn discussed a lack of patient confidence in the recreational market, “…for a variety of reasons.” In recent conversations and meetings with patient advocates, Nordhorn has been told:
- Patients do not want a registry, attaching home delivery to a registry would pose a challenge to that program’s efficacy.
- Patients are reluctant to join the registry not only for privacy concerns, but for equity concerns: patients who are prescribed non-cannabis medicine are not required to be on a registry; nor are they taxed at 37%.
- Patients are concerned about scarcity of product tested for pesticides and heavy metals; and lack of information on pesticide application for products on shelves.
- Patients are interested in legislation to allow home grows and farmers markets.
- Patients want the Department of Health and WSLCB to recognize that medical product scarcity is an “emergent” and “urgent” situation, especially given that fall harvest is upon the market.
- Patients have suggested that sampling protocols and responsibility be transferred to the State, rather than the private sector.
- Another suggestion was that the State should “do more robust random testing, and have robust penalties, if you have pesticides and heavy metals on there.”
- Garrett discussed information the Board received that participation in the registry is “kind of low,” and that perhaps if registry-mandated home grows and farmers markets were allowed it might incentivize greater participation.
- Nordhorn pointed out the supply and demand problem, independent of patient reluctance to be on the registry. Low participation by patients in the marketplace means there’s little incentive for retailers to carry medically compliant products, pushing a cycle of product scarcity which disincentivizes patient participation.
- Nordhorn explained the existence of illegal farmers markets across the State, which continue operating under complaint-driven enforcement: “we’re not getting complaints around those that, hey kids are getting access to the product, or that it’s being diverted, like in the black market traditional activity. We don’t get those kind of complaints. And so we haven’t prioritized those, if locals want to do that, that’s really up to them.”
- Garrett noted that patients were willing to drive across the State to access farmers markets because they could access types of products and information that the legal market cannot provide. Nordhorn added that another incentive for them is that they trust the growers providing that product, in a way they do not for I-502 producer/processors, and that they want to be able to touch, feel, smell, and sample the product to which they have access.
- Nordhorn said the farmers market phenomena and interest in home grow tell him that there’s demand that the I-502 market in its current form is not currently able to fulfill, but that this is a legislative problem the WSLCB does not have the authority to address.
- Garrett suggested that the LCB would have sufficient authority if home grow and farmers markets were linked to registry participation.
- Nordhorn noted that he has told patient stakeholders that legislative fixes that do not involve the registry are likely to fail.
- Nordhorn noted the presence of competing interests from licensees, singling out the Washington CannaBusiness Association’s opposition to farmer’s markets.
- Nordhorn has told patient stakeholders that absent direction from the Governor’s Office, the best they can expect from the WSLCB and the Department of Health on legislative fixes is likely to be a neutral stance.
- Rushford noted the lack of input from retailers on the availability of medically compliant product, and Garrett responded that “the focus needs to be on the patient.”
- Garza noted that the Board has been hearing the concerns reported by Nordhorn “for years,” and that WSLCB focus should be on what they have authority to change within existing law.
- Garza reported that Molecular Testing, the only accredited lab in the State capable of doing heavy metals testing, has agreed to stay open through the end of the year, so the system itself would remain capable of producing medically compliant products. Under current DOH rules, medically compliant products must be tested for heavy metals.
- Nordhorn reported that retail employees seemed to be providing misleading information regarding testing for products on their shelves, and that “there’s still only one lab” in the State which presents a challenge to the system’s ability to provide compliant products.