WSLCB - Tribal Advisory Council
(April 24, 2019) - Summary

20 tribal delegations met with the WSLCB, DOH, and OAG to discuss cannabis law, rule, and sovereign government-to-government compacts.

Here are some observations of the Wednesday April 24th WSLCB Tribal Advisory Council meeting.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • The WSLCB Tribal Advisory Council is a renewed government-to-government consultative body which is quite different from WSLCB’s industry councils and workgroups.
    • The Tribal Advisory Council (TAC) consists of delegations from federally-recognized, sovereign tribal governments which have entered into policy compacts with the State of Washington, or are considering doing so. The power dynamic of the TAC is fundamentally different from other WSLCB-organized bodies such as the Cannabis Advisory Council or Alcohol Advisory Council, which are means for WSLCB to interface with groups of licensees or representatives of licensees.
    • According to the testimony of participants, the TAC was originally formed to assist during the privatization of spirits sales in the 2011-2012 timeframe. After privatization, meetings of the group were suspended. This event was the first gathering of a reconstituted TAC since the passage of I-502, and focused on cannabis.
    • In 2015, HB 2000 authorized the governor to enter into agreements concerning marijuana with federally recognized Indian tribes located in Washington State (RCW 43.06.490). The Governor subsequently “delegated the negotiation authority for these compacts to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.”
    • The WSLCB has entered into 11 marijuana compacts “and is actively negotiating several more.” Each compact is unique, but can start from the WSLCB’s compact template. Cannabis Observer has obtained copies of ten original compacts via public records requests, but has not obtained any subsequent amendments. It’s our understanding that The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation may be the eleventh tribe compacted with the State.
    • Cannabis Observer documented 58 participants at the Tribal Advisory Council meeting, including:
      • All three WSLCB Board Members
      • 13 WSLCB agency staff including the Director, Deputy Director, and Enforcement Chief
      • Two WSLCB attorneys from the Washington State Office of the Attorney General (OAG)
      • Two Department of Health (DOH) staff
      • Delegations from 20 tribal governments
    • The Suquamish Tribe hosted the TAC meeting at the Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort. Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman acted as WSLCB Board Member Russ Hauge’s counterpart helping guide the conversation. Chairman Forsman’s initial address provided helpful background context and established a mutually respectful tone for the meeting (audio – 6m).
  • WSLCB and Department of Health staff prepared four informational presentations for the assembled council.
  • The Tribal Advisory Council’s roundtable discussion was brief and participants adjourned early.
    • Suquamish Treasurer Robin Sigo voiced “a few concerns” (audio – 4m).
      • Sigo emphasized the primacy of the government-to-government relationship and called into question the presentation of WSLCB’s rulemaking process because “federal Indian law precludes the state from enforcing its civil regulatory laws in Indian country.”
      • Sigo referenced the work that went into HB 2000 “to protect our sovereignty, protect the lands that our people are on” including from threats of diversion into jurisdictions of “tribes that don’t want to have marijuana.”
      • Sigo concluded: “Because this is a public meeting, because there’s a public record, I want to make sure that that’s really clarified, because I don’t want any public record to acknowledge that we just came here to learn how the trib-, how the state does business. Because we’re a government, as you are. We continue to meet with you guys and we are glad to do that, because we want, we want this industry to work too.”
      • Hauge responded by acknowledging tribal sovereignty and the compacts “under which we jointly regulate the trade with your permission.” He added that tribes “also have the opportunity to participate in the rulemaking process itself” by filing requests for rulemaking.
    • Forsman suggested a subsequent TAC include time for the WSLCB Board and staff to learn from “what we sometimes call ‘Tribal Government 101’ or ‘Tribal Sovereignty 101’” (audio – 2m).
    • Chair Jane Rushford briefly described the Cannabis 2.0 project and indicated she would reach out to the TAC members to solicit their participation (audio – 2m).
    • Agency Director Rick Garza shared his perspective as the meeting drew to an early close (audio – 5m).
      • Garza responded to Sigo’s comment about diversion into tribal nations by stating the agency had experience with jurisdiction-specific bans and moratoria across Washington State.
      • He invoked the successful partnership with “a couple of the tribes” during two visits to Washington D.C. to lobby the state’s congressional delegation.
      • Garza indicated an interest in sharing information “with respect to public health and prevention and youth access and potency in this…new world of cannabis.” He added, “This is a different cannabis than back in the 70s and 80s when I was going to school and going to college. I think there’s a lot of danger around it.” The new WSLCB Public Health and Education Liaison Sara Cooley Broschart nodded in agreement.
      • Garza expressed his concern that the TAC did not address “the challenges that we’re having around this.” He shared his belief that “there’s 11 states that are likely gonna legalize in the next two years” and asked, “how is that gonna change the relationships that we have?”
      • He concluded by addressing Chairman Forsman’s suggestion: “We do 101s. I’ve had [Miller Nash Graham & Dunn attorneys] Chris Masse and Aubrey [Seffernick] come before. We do it often, and it hasn’t been that long since we did it, but we’ll do it continually, because I, like you, want to make sure that everyone that works for our agency understands what that relationship means, beyond a licensure, licensing system.”
    • Marine View Ventures General Counsel Kelly Croman, representing the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, spoke of the way the trials of the previous series of Tribal Advisory Council meetings established trust between the participants, trust which needed to be respectfully rebuilt (audio – 3m).
    • The participants loosely agreed to appoint a subcommittee to organize future meetings of the Tribal Advisory Council, and adjourned an hour early.