WSLCB - Board Meeting
(May 29, 2019) - Summary

A new packaging and labeling rulemaking project was initiated; a timeline for all open rulemaking projects was presented; and the Board heard calls to focus on medical cannabis and evidence-based rulemaking.

Here are some observations from the Wednesday May 29th WSLCB Board Meeting. We’re catching up on the summaries we were unable to release the previous week due to travel.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • The Board formally opened a new round of cannabis packaging and labeling rulemaking (audio – 4m, video).
    • WSLCB Policy and Rules Coordinator Kathy Hoffman asked Board Chair Jane Rushford and Member Russ Hauge to approve opening a new rulemaking project for cannabis packaging and labeling (PAL) consistent with her presentation during the previous day’s Board Caucus. Rule sections targeted for change included WAC 314-55-105 and WAC 314-55-077 subsections (8) and (9).
    • Hoffman noted PAL rules were established in 2013 “and over time, the rules have been modified in response to industry growth as well as statutory and other changes.” Emergent considerations like industry waste and use of biodegradable materials led the agency to assume “additional options to support industry sustainability should be explored.”
    • The proposed rulemaking project would incorporate two petitions from The Cannabis Alliance which the Board recently reviewed and accepted. The first would limit thickness of plastic packaging and the second would eliminate the requirement for external measuring cups for infused beverages.
    • Hoffman continued, “Also, this rulemaking will allow the implementations of the requirements consistent with Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5298, that will allow additional information on marijuana product labels to assist consumers in making purchases of these products.”
    • The rulemaking project would also incorporate the five board interim policies adopted in January in addition to “technical and clarifying amendments as necessary.”
    • Hoffman shared her projected timeline:
      • June 19: beginning of written comment period
      • July 10: end of written comment period
      • September 4: presentation and Board adoption of CR-102
      • October 16: public hearing
      • November 13: presentation and Board adoption of CR-103
      • January 1, 2020: effective date (consistent with existing PAL changes)
    • Having no questions for Hoffman, Rushford and Hauge voted to open PAL rulemaking.
    • Hoffman, who introduced the “listen and learn” session format at the agency, also shared her intention to upgrade the rules proposal page on the agency’s website to “keep the public up to date on what [WSLCB]’s doing specifically on rules and documents associated with rules.”
  • WSLCB Policy and Rules Coordinator Kathy Hoffman forecast a timeline for open cannabis rulemaking projects.
    • Cannabis Penalties (WSR 18-22-099, audio – 2m, video). Hoffman noted “with the passage of Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5318, that’s brought some additional changes to that rule development process, including amendments and new sections.” She believed the agency was about a month away from draft rules. The bill also included a “consultation program” which will be fleshed out in a “separate rulemaking activity.” Hoffman anticipated an “aggressive” timeline to present proposed rules (CR-102) for adoption on October 21st.
      • See Cannabis Observer’s coverage of SB 5318’s recent passage.
      • It’s Cannabis Observer’s understanding that WSLCB continues to convene industry trade associations and stakeholder representatives every Friday to continue hashing out a major overhaul of the cannabis penalty matrix.
    • True Parties of Interest (TPI, WSR 18-22-054, audio – 1m, video). This rulemaking had been expanded to incorporate parts of HB 1794, “having to do with trademarks and intellectual property.” As some TPI and penalty rules “cross reference each other,” Hoffman was working to move those rulemaking projects in tandem and match the timeline of the cannabis penalties rulemaking.
    • Quality Assurance Testing (WSR 18-17-041, audio – 1m, video). Hoffman convened a “very successful” listen and learn session with the regulated community in April and was finishing up the small business economic impact statement. She planned a second listen and learn session on “how we mitigate costs to the regulated community and how we would phase-in rules over time.” Hoffman aimed to have the CR-102 ready by mid-September.
    • Vapor Product Rules (WSR 18-24-031, audio – 2m, video). The agency purposefully allowed their open vapor product rules CR-102 to expire. Hoffman planned to re-file a CR-101 to incorporate recently passed legislation raising the age for tobacco purchases to 21 in addition to a separate bill on vapor product taxes. “That rule set is largely written, although we’ll just have to refine it a little bill to incorporate this legislation.” She believed the new CR-102 would be ready around late September or early October.
  • Three citizens offered public comments to the Board on medical cannabis and evidence-based rulemaking.
    • John Kingsbury, a cannabis patient advocate, started by conceding public comments were not a “conversational” forum but asked for a reply from the Board on several medical cannabis concerns. Asserting that not much has improved for patients since the former dispensary industry was assimilated by the recreational market, Kingsbury said “talking is not acting” and implored members to make medical cannabis a priority. He was hopeful after the Board declared medical cannabis a priority during last July’s planning session and Enforcement Chief Justin Nordhorn outlined opportunities to adjust the marketplace in November, but ultimately felt this hadn’t led to results. Kingsbury also suggested the addition of a patient advocate seat on WSLCB’s Cannabis Advisory Council (CAC) as a means for the agency to learn from a knowledgeable patient with “no business interests in the cannabis industry” (audio – 3m, video).
    • Don Skakie, another patient activist, seconded Kingsbury’s call to prioritize patient needs and the creation of a patient advocate seat on the CAC. Skakie called out the state’s affirmative defense for medical cannabis use as a barrier to patient participation in the regulated market and asked the agency to formally support legislative changes to enumerate this right. He also suggested the Board re-enable producers to source cannabis genetics from outside the I-502 marketplace to allow producers to import more patient-friendly cultivars. Skakie asked the Board to focus on medical cannabis as “it would be a great healing as we go to what’s described as Cannabis 2.0,” a reference to Rushford’s campaign for innovative approaches to cannabis regulation (audio – 4m, video).
    • Kate Quackenbush, with Kirkland-based processor Fractal, implored the agency to make PAL revisions “evidence-based” as previous rules had been “a little bit random, a little bit based in emotion, or opinion, or conjecture.” She informed the Board there was existing research showing “how children do accidentally consume cannabis” that could be applied to create more “effective” PAL rules (audio – 2m, video).