WSLCB - Board Meeting
(January 8, 2020) - Summary

The Board was treated to a sweeping survey of the agency’s prevention and public health efforts before a swift public hearing on the Cannabis Penalties rulemaking project.

Here are some observations from the Wednesday January 8th Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) Board Meeting.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • Public Health Education Liaison Sara Cooley Broschart shared a presentation on the agency’s prevention and public health programs.
    • Broschart recently briefed the agency’s Executive Management Team (EMT) on her involvement in, and 2018’s results from, the state’s Healthy Youth Survey (HYS). Since joining the agency in April 2019, she participated along with Board Chair Jane Rushford at last November’s Washington State Prevention Summit, and has been at the forefront of WSLCB’s response to the state’s vaping-associated lung injury (VALI) health scare. Later the same day during the WSLCB EMT meeting, Broschart was invited to present takeaways from her initial travel to the twice yearly Marijuana Regulators Roundtable, an event which happened to focus on “public health” as its theme.
    • Broschart said that she’d been asked by Board Chair Jane Rushford to make remarks on “what our prevention/public health program is doing” over the “last year or so.” Commenting that in nine months with the agency “we’ve had some achievements in that time,” she said the agency was also receiving questions from the industry and public about prevention and public health in addition to “what my specific role here is.” Broschart described the central tenets of the agency's prevention and health work as breaking down into several areas (audio - 21m, presentation).
      • Public Health. With a “community-focused” mission of public health “to protect people where they live, work, and play,” Broschart talked about a policy field that weighed “social determinants” and “complex factors” to evaluate non-individual health outcomes. “When you think about what we’re regulating: marijuana, alcohol, vapor products increasingly, and tobacco, those interact in complex ways with social situations,” she explained. 
      • Education. Broschart saw her role at the agency as contributing to both internal and external education. Either she was assisting staff with “prevention science” in policy or rulemaking across “every division” or working on what WSLCB or other health agencies were “doing that’s of interest to the community.” Following the passage of I-502, the agency fielded more questions than ever on “what did that mean, what were the rules, what were the laws?” Broschart thanked the agency for its “forward thinking” in making a public health position a permanent part of the alcohol, and now cannabis, regulator. “We in Washington are one of only two states in the nation that have a public health or prevention person on their staff,” she added. 
      • Research and Analysis. Broschart said Trecia Ehrlich, WSLCB’s Research Consultant, brought “research and analysis focus into our public health and prevention program.” Policy and rulemaking needs were the central motivator in deciding what staff should study. Broschart said Ehrlich and other staff focused on academic research and laws or policies in other states.
      • Policy Work. “We, at public health and prevention, are on the LCB’s legislative team, we also do weekly interagency calls during the leg[islative] session” to track bills.
      • Engagement with Communities and State Agencies. Calling engagement an “increasing focus” for WSLCB, Broschart said it involved “other communities and state agencies.”
        • She’d hosted webinars with groups, most commonly around WSLCB’s rulemaking process. Broschart had also done significant outreach to prevention groups during the agency’s newly adopted packaging and labeling rulemaking to see that “the voices of all stakeholders were heard.” She called an October listen and learn forum on packaging and labeling a success due to an “equal number of prevention and public health voices in the room as we had industry voices” adding that she “hoped it’s the beginning of a new trend here.” 
        • Broschart spoke of her participation during the last Prevention Summit as something she looked forward to repeating. She then mentioned two “prevention roundtables” in 2019 where she, Rushford, Director Rick Garza, and “key staff” visited Spokane and then Bothell to speak to prevention advocates directly. 
          • This year we’ll be looking to do two or three,” Broschart said, forecasting prevention roundtables outside of Olympia, “something in March, and then probably something summertime.” She was “currently connecting with other agencies to see who all is doing convening of the same group so we can kind of piggy-back and collaborate when we’ve already got all the folks in a room.”
        • There would also be continued educational webinars on agency rulemaking for people “to build the skills and get the voices in the room.” Broschart indicated the agency’s educational webpage would see revisions as well.
        • Enforcement officers have also been asked to provide educational support for community coalitions according to Broschart, so she has continued to provide internal training or support for that division as well. Further, Broschart said she was developing a “prevention education series for internal staff.”
        • Broschart said she would continue traveling around Washington to meet with specific groups or communities, highlighting the state’s “southeastern corner” as a priority for her 2020 travels on behalf of the agency. 
        • Focusing on her title of “liaison,” Broschart mentioned her role as “a force multiplier” connecting other state agency prevention efforts. As co-chair of HYS, she “works on preventing alcohol and marijuana use by young people under 18.” She called attention to as a “great resource” for parents that resulted from interagency collaboration. Broschart mentioned last month’s HYS briefing for the agency and the state’s reliance on HYS for quality data.
      • Responding to things like VALI. Weighing in on emerging public health concerns like VALI was another function Broschart served at WSLCB. Acknowledging her presentation on WSLCB’s vapor ban efforts to the Cannabis Advisory Council (CAC) the month before, she offered some revised nationwide patient numbers. Broschart said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigators believed VALI cases “began in June and spiked in September and is now dissipating.” She cautioned that “new cases are still being identified” and may have slowed during December. Broschart said that updated numbers from cannabis licensee ingredient disclosure forms were likely to be released in an upcoming WSLCB newsletter. In addition, she anticipated a legislative effort to “fix this as a longer term.”
    • Broschart elaborated that “prevention services in the state of Washington are based in communities through coalitions, and there’s over 80” meaning that “most of the work is being done locally.”
    • Broschart outlined several other partnerships she participated in or engaged with in the state on behalf of the agency:
    • Broschart said her “2020 vision for the program” is to “build prevention and public health engagement in our rulemaking process” in an effort to “achieve parity” so that “we’ve got as many prevention and public health voices in the room as we do other stakeholders.”
  • A swift hearing on WSLCB’s proposed rules for Cannabis Penalties drew only one commenter while a date for the public hearing on the True Party of Interest (TPI) rulemaking project was projected for spring.
    • The Board approved proposed rule changes to Cannabis Penalties on November 13th.
    • Policy and Rules Coordinator Kathy Hoffman introduced the public hearing for the Cannabis Penalties rulemaking project before the podium was opened for public comment (audio - 3m, video).
      • Hoffman went through the issue brief saying the rulemaking project began late in 2018 with the most recent action being the Board’s approval of the CR-102 last November. Indicating the process was “inclusive and engaged,” Hoffman told the Board the revision “focuses on a compliance and education-based regulatory approach designed to encourage licensee success.” Development of the proposed rules involved an external stakeholder work group that met “more than a dozen times” and two listen and learn sessions in September and October of last year.
      • Hoffman said the rule change “establishes a process for the issuance for the notice of reduces the cumulative effect of escalating penalties from three to two years. It provides a deferral option. It restructures existing penalty grids by establishing penalty categories based on violation severity and relationship to public health and safety. It significantly reduces the number of violations that could result in license cancelation while balancing penalties across license types. It re-incorporates and associates statutory references with violation type and reduces all fines by 50% and in some cases more than 50%.” Lastly, Hoffman said the changes incorporated requirements of SB 5318, which was passed last year.
      • Kristin Baldwin (audio - 1m, video). The new Executive Director of the Cannabis Alliance as of January 1st, Baldwin praised the proposed revisions to the penalty system and the “whole process.” She appreciated the agency’s embrace of “the opportunity to educate versus become punitive.” Baldwin told the Board the Alliance was invested “in the successful outcome of helping LCB educate our members to meet the letter and the spirit of the law.” 
    • True Party of Interest (TPI, WSR 18-22-054). Hoffman provided updates on all active cannabis rulemaking projects during that week’s board caucus. Her comments at the board meeting conveyed the same information with the exception of the TPI rulemaking project’s timeline (audio - 1m, video).
      • A “final meeting with industry partners” was scheduled before the CR-102 would be filed on February 19th.
      • The proposed rules described in the CR-102 would have a public hearing on April 1st “or shortly thereafter.”
      • At publication time, Cannabis Observer did not have direct visibility into the meetings of the TPI external work group but had begun to request associated public records. Here are documents from the August 12th and December 9th meetings of the TPI work group.
  • During public comment, a long-time cannabis grower criticized agency policies as contributing to a lack of medically compliant cannabis in the state.
    • Mark Jones (audio - 5m, video). A grower starting a company called Loveland Enterprises, Jones encouraged the agency to “test my products, in any store you have open, I’ll beat ya’. I’m clean weed.” He said there was “no medical marijuana in this state” and that “stores say they sell it, but they don’t.” 
      • Jones said he had relatives working for licensees that were “pouring chemicals into these plants, and doing an absolute negative to what we were proposing when we got you into 502.” He warned that consumers could get “cancer from all the fertilizers they pump this stuff with” unless WSLCB listened to growers like himself that produced “clean weed.” Jones said that cannabis had “almost 10% [cannabidiol] (CBD) in it if it’s grown properly” and strong medical value. He argued that recreational companies could “pump [their cannabis] full of chemicals and mass it with molasses, [Phencyclidine] (PCP), whatever they want” and may not be caught by the state’s testing.
      • Jones proposed a state laboratory program where medical cannabis growers like him could “test my products with, without problem” because he had “a good product that I want to get out to you guys, but you shut me down year after year after year.”
      • Expecting that Homegrow Washington’s campaign to pass HB 1131/SB 5155 would succeed during the impending session, he claimed cannabis would soon be legal nationwide because “it’s already in the DEA- 1862 part B of your USC. It becomes a commodity or a commerce and must be removed from the registry as a drug” as it would be “an herb supplement.”
      • Jones asked the Board to “revamp” medical cannabis in the state to help veterans “coming out of war, that doesn’t give them a big ol’ melon-hike.” He further advised that medical patient cards should “last five years, because it takes that long to cure my cancer.” Jones promised he could “cure almost anything out there if a person will let me design the plant for ‘em” including “cancers, I can get you off of any hard drugs that you’re on right now.” Jones added that he’d “been fighting and growing this stuff for 48 years, three convictions, I know what I’m doing.”

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