WSLCB - Board Caucus
(April 30, 2019) - Summary

The Board reviewed the Tribal Advisory Council meeting and considered three new petitions for rulemaking.

Here are some observations from the Tuesday April 30th WSLCB Board Caucus.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • Board Member Russ Hauge led a lengthy follow up discussion on the recent Tribal Advisory Council meeting (audio – 30m).
    • See Cannabis Observer’s coverage of the April 24th Tribal Advisory Council (TAC) meeting.
    • Hauge shared his general impression that “it went about as well as it could” and celebrated the presence of non-compacted tribal governments exploring their options.
    • Hauge admitted WSLCB hadn’t “tended to” their relationships with tribal nations very well since the work of the previous incarnation of the Tribal Advisory Council during the privatization of alcohol. He felt the recent withdrawal of rulemaking on acceptable forms of identification represented “a good wake up call” for the agency.
    • Hauge revisited comments made by Robin Sigo, Treasurer for the Suquamish Tribe, which he summarized as “Why are you talking to us about all this rulemaking and legislative stuff? This doesn’t directly concern us.” He felt there was a misunderstanding of intent: “What we [WSLCB] were all trying to communicate is ‘this is our culture, this is how we do business.’ And it’s our obligation to keep up the way we do business so that it includes you. But it’s also a process you can take advantage of as well.” He remained skeptical that tribal government lawyers would recommend engaging with WSLCB’s rulemaking process.
    • Board Member Ollie Garrett shared her impression that participants “tuned off” during the legislative update presented by Director of Legislative Relations Chris Thompson. Garrett suggested the lawmaking activity of the State of Washington may not have been as relevant for representatives of other sovereign nations. Hauge said the tribal delegations met privately prior to the meeting to discuss the TAC agenda which included discussion of Washington State’s new law raising the tobacco purchase age to 21. The tribal delegations did not have a unified perspective on the change—which disrupts existing arrangements with the State—and explicitly asked WSLCB to avoid public discussion about it. Board Chair Jane Rushford asked if the tribes were included during the crafting of the agency request legislation by the Washington State Office of the Attorney General (OAG). Hauge shared his impression that the tribal nations weren’t substantively included.
    • Hauge highlighted another concern: transparency. While WSLCB’s advisory council meetings are generally regarded as public meetings even if the Board does not achieve quorum, Hauge indicated the agency’s mandated openness may provoke a concern about “whether and to what extent [tribal representatives] can talk freely in that setting.” This uncertainty was compounded by complexities introduced by history, relationships, and differing interests amongst the tribes. Hauge said, “I don’t think there’s any reason for us to vary from our practice” and WSLCB advisory councils “should be public.”
    • After the public meeting, Hauge met privately “with some of the tribal leaders and a lot of the tribal attorneys” where he heard “two major issues.”
      • Participants wanted to know what WSLCB planned to do about Joint Rivers, the cannabis retailer offering online ordering and drive through pickup on the Muckleshoot Reservation. Hauge quashed a rumor that the agency had amended the Muckleshoot compact to allow drive throughs. He admitted the subject had been raised in talks with Muckleshoot representatives, but WSLCB chose to leave the issue between the tribe and the Department of Justice. Hauge said the agency had subsequently prohibited drive throughs in other compacts. Hauge recently talked with the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington about the matter.
      • Tribal attorneys raised concerns about the agency’s marijuana compact template. If the template had to be utilized, it could be construed as a challenge to sovereign authority and autonomy. Hauge said, “What I told them was ‘The template is just a template. If you want to start with a clean piece of paper we can do that.’” WSLCB would continue to insist on compliance with state law as there was “no guidance” from federal authorities.
    • Hauge expected the TAC would meet two to four times per year primarily for information sharing and not just between compacted nations and the agency “but [also] the tribes among themselves.” Rushford suggested appointing a tribal leader as a potential co-chair, but Hauge cautioned the politics amongst the tribes was largely unknown to him and such a choice might present difficulties.
    • Garrett asked if the law firms representing the tribes would be well situated to help schedule and develop agendas for TAC meetings. Hauge suggested it would be better to have tribal leadership set the agenda to speak to their own interests and avoid additional legal costs.
    • Hauge said the Hoh Tribe and Quinault Indian Nation were in the latter stages of the cannabis compacting process, but hadn’t been visited by a board member. Rushford requested staff be “thoughtful” when planning future meetings on the road and invite area tribes regardless of whether they have a compact.
    • Although Hauge worked with the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs (GOIA) to develop the agenda for the first TAC, he said the agency was understaffed and WSLCB was “on our own in trying to forge” the renewed TAC and better consultative process with tribal nations.
  • Policy and Rules Coordinator Kathy Hoffman offered a preview of Wednesday’s Board Meeting and presented three petitions for rulemaking (audio – 2m).
    • On Wednesday, Hoffman planned to present the CR-103 wrapping up the Mandatory Marijuana Signage rulemaking project. The only comment she’d received questioned the science warning against cannabis use during pregnancy. Hoffman cited ongoing research in the rulemaking issue paper, and said the rule change didn’t impact the signage requirement, only its wording.
    • The Cannabis Alliance submitted three petitions for rulemaking.
      • The first concerned SMS advertising, requesting clarification on the lengthy product warnings required in text messages. Hoffman was confident the issue could be addressed without new rulemaking (audio – 4m).
      • The second petition asked WSLCB to eliminate the requirement for an “external measuring device” on cannabis infused beverages. The Alliance argued most customers toss them, increasing industry waste, and suggested processors could add measuring aids to beverage containers. Board members felt the petition had merit and Hoffman agreed to open a CR-101 (audio – 4m).
      • The last petition asked the Board to consider decreasing plastic packaging thickness from 4 mil to 2 mil due to concerns about excessive waste. Rushford agreed the agency should evaluate the “conservative approach” the Board had taken and move toward sustainability. Hoffman planned to approve the petition and initiate rulemaking (audio – 5m).
      • Referencing the currently active board interim policies (BIP) on packaging and labeling, Hoffman mentioned the opportunity to expand the scope of the proposed new rulemaking to formalize the BIPs and incorporate SB 5298, currently on Governor Jay Inslee’s desk. Asked if it was worth engaging stakeholders more broadly about waste streamlining, Hoffman was receptive to “a broader view of packaging and labeling in general.”
  • Board Members shared updates on upcoming meetings.
    • Executive Assistant Dustin Dickson explained there still wasn’t a firm date for the next Cannabis Advisory Council (CAC) meeting, but participants were leaning towards July after the agency moves to its new headquarters in downtown Olympia. Garrett and Dickson most recently discussed CAC planning publicly on April 23rd (audio – 3m).
    • There will be no board meeting or Executive Management Team (EMT) meeting next week (audio – 2m).
    • Hauge said he’d met with The Cannabis Alliance Executive Director Lara Kaminsky to “brainstorm” and planned to meet Washington SunGrowers Industry Association (WSIA) Executive Director Crystal Oliver to discuss vertical integration and on-site consumption. Hauge expressed his intention to open up business opportunities for producers and processors through sampling rather than social use at restaurants, nightclubs, or bars. Hauge planned to use craft breweries and wineries as models of “small, clearly defined, and easily regulated” spaces. Although not opposed to other consumption policies, Hauge maintained it would be wiser to ask the legislature for a “small step.” Rushford called it an “obvious” option for cannabis “business expansion” (audio – 3m).