WA House COG - Work Session
(December 3, 2018) - Summary

WA House COG was updated on WSLCB's, DOE's, and WSDA's cannabis programs and interim legislative studies.

Here are some observations from the December 3rd Washington State House Commerce and Gaming Committee (WA House COG) Work Session on cannabis policy. The committee heard updates on cannabis topics from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB), the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) and the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA).

My top 3 takeaways:

  • WSLCB Director of Legislative Relations Chris Thompson and WSLCB Cannabis Examiner Manager Kendra Hodgson updated lawmakers on the agency’s medical cannabis home delivery study, oversight of labs, and imported CBD (slidedeck, video – 34m).
    • Chris Thompson walked the committee through the Home Delivery of Medical Cannabis Report.
      • Thompson outlined structural barriers to medical delivery including difficulties introduced by the lack of available medically-compliant cannabis products and cost.
      • Thompson mentioned WSLCB licenses companies to deliver cannabis products between I-502 licensees, but these 15 transportation vendors currently handle only .015% of the state’s cannabis products.
      • Thompson offered stakeholder ideas raised during the report’s creation including medical exemption from excise tax and delivery to adult-use consumers.
      • Thompson conveyed an agency preference for broad authority to structure a home delivery system in the I-502 marketplace by rule.
      • Acting Chair Shelley Kloba asked why the report called out a risk of delivery driver impairment. Thompson admitted “There’s no specific history of problems in this area that generate a concern unique to the cannabis environment. It was just included as one example [risk] among many.”
      • Here is an earlier draft of WSLCB’s report (Oct 30).
      • Here is the most recent presentation of the report to WSLCB leadership (Nov 28).
    • Kendra Hodgson provided an update on lab oversight and cannabis product quality assurance (video).
      • Hodgson described the current roster of sixteen accredited labs, including one that is currently suspended. Three labs test for pesticides and only one tests for heavy metals, constraining vendor choice for certification of DOH-compliant cannabis products (slide).
      • She compared the state’s lab accreditation oversight to other state-legal cannabis programs to establish a basis for DOE’s subsequent presentation about assuming responsibility for lab accreditation (slide).
      • WSLCB now has a lab working group that meets quarterly and is planning future lab oversight steps including: lab licensure after accreditation by the Department of Ecology; hiring a staffer with a lab science background; partnering Enforcement officers with Examiners on lab visits as needed based on complaints or identified risks.
      • Hodgson informed the committee about the open rulemaking for cannabis quality assurance testing and products requirements (WSR 18-17-041). She confirmed the agency is considering changes in lot size and a single testing standard for all cannabis products to include screening for pesticides and heavy metals.
      • Hodgson presented these subjects to the WSLCB Board in greater detail on November 14th.
    • Thompson explained the implementation of ESSHB 2334’s requirement to test cannabidiol (CBD) imported into the I-502 marketplace (video).
      • Acting Chair Kloba voiced concern about the safety of some CBD products available in the state. Thompson agreed consumers should understand there is no testing required for CBD products available outside of the I-502 marketplace.
      • Thompson said some CBD products make unfounded claims. WSDA testing has revealed some CBD products don’t actually contain CBD.
      • Thompson described the agency’s creation of rules requiring testing of all CBD introduced into the I-502 system from unlicensed sources.
  • Department of Ecology Director of Government Relations Denise Clifford described the agency’s Cannabis Lab Accreditation Legislative Report (slidedeck, video – 8m).
    • The legislature asked DOE to evaluate appropriate protocols and accreditation standards for cannabis testing laboratories. Clifford compared it with the department’s current charge to accredit labs that test drinking water, adding “This is kind of new territory for us in terms of cannabis.”
    • Stakeholder participants in the study included relevant agency staff, WSLCB, and I-502 labs – a type of outside engagement which Clifford indicated DOE was unaccustomed to. DOE reported stakeholders expressed eagerness for change, support for the agency’s recommendations, and desire to improve cannabis product quality assurance.
    • The report recommends creating an inter-agency “Cannabis Science Task Force” to develop product standards, lab standards, and proficiency testing. The team will include microbiologists, chemists, experts in food and agricultural testing, and representatives from the Department of Health, WSLCB, DOE, and WSDA.
    • Clifford confirmed the final report would be finished by January 15th, 2019.
    • Here is a draft of the report published by DOE in late October.
  • Department of Agriculture Policy Advisor Kelly McLain and Assistant Director for Food Safety and Consumer Services Steve Fuller provided an update on cannabis-related programs at WSDA (slidedeck, video – 22m).
    • McLain described WSDA’s pesticide registration program and its application to cannabis.
      • WSDA evaluates pesticides to determine if they can be used on cannabis. The agency considers cannabis a food crop for the purpose of judging threats to health; permitted pesticides must be labeled for use on unspecified food crops or herbs.
      • Of 11,000 pesticides registered in Washington, only about 300 can be used on cannabis.
      • The active ingredient in usable pesticides must be “tolerance exempt” meaning there is no limit to the amount that can be used on food crops.
    • McLain outlined the results of WSLCB’s partnership with WSDA for on-demand testing of cannabis products for pesticides, heavy metals, and potency.
      • The WSDA lab in Yakima tests for 230 pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides.
      • Since the inception of the partnership, WSDA has tested 533 cannabis product samples. 286 samples were tested in 2017.
      • McLain stated 73% of all samples tested had at least one pesticide present, though this figure does not appear to distinguish between allowed pesticides, allowed pesticides over action levels, and prohibited pesticides.
    • In May 2017, the state passed a law to create the nation’s first organic-equivalent standard for cannabis. The WSDA is preparing rules for marijuana producers, processors, and handlers to utilize a new “Certified Cannabis” label. The agency intends to open the program next spring (slide).
    • WSDA’s Industrial Hemp Research Program had only one grower during the previous season growing on 141.7 acres. The WSDA identified two primary barriers to growth of the hemp program: the inability to grow/process for CBD, and the 4-mile buffer required between hemp and I-502 fields to mitigate cross-pollination.
    • Steve Fuller discussed the Marijuana Infused Edibles (MIE) rulemaking to implement HB 1462 (video).
      • WSDA’s MIE rules went into effect April 1st, and are reportedly similar to existing WSLCB rules.
      • MIE product approvals are coordinated between WSDA, WSLCB, and the Department of Revenue (DOR).
      • In October, WSDA convened an MIE advisory group which discussed improving communication, educating the industry, changing how THC is listed on packaging, and allowing higher risk MIEs.
      • Representative Cindy Ryu asked if MIEs labeled the origin of cannabis. Fuller said that wasn’t required, though any cannabis used did have to be produced in-state.