The Week Ahead
(May 18, 2020)

Formal rulemaking processes got underway anew at the WSLCB while Ecology’s Cannabis Science Task Force pushed towards a July deadline for its first report to the Legislature.

Here’s a look at cannabis-related policymaking events on Cannabis Observer’s calendars in the week ahead.

Monday May 18th

On Monday at 9am PT, the Department of Ecology (DOE) Cannabis Science Task Force (CSTF) Steering Committee was scheduled to convene remotely.

Tuesday May 19th

On Tuesday at 10am PT, the weekly Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) Board Caucus was scheduled to recur.

Wednesday May 20th

On Wednesday at 1pm PT, the WSLCB Listen and Learn Forum for the True Party of Interest (TPI) Rulemaking Project was scheduled to convene remotely.

  • [ Event Details ]
  • Originally set for March 17th, this event was rescheduled on March 11th as a remote-only webinar in light of COVID-19 concerns. Rescheduled for March 26th, on the afternoon of Monday March 16th the event was “indefinitely postponed.”
  • As WSLCB Policy and Rules Manager Kathy Hoffman stated in the event announcement, “During the summer, and into the fall and winter of 2019, WSLCB held multiple meetings with industry association representatives, licensees, and others to draft the conceptual rules we’ll be discussing during this Listen and Learn session.” Cannabis Observer documented the occasions of some of the meetings of the WSLCB TPI Work Group where you can review documents we’ve obtained.
  • Wednesday’s Listen and Learn Forum will cover conceptual draft rules dated March 3rd. The TPI rulemaking project, initiated in late October 2018, remains at the introductory CR-101 stage.

On Wednesday at 1:30pm PT, the three-member Board and agency leadership were scheduled to convene their weekly WSLCB Executive Management Team (EMT) meeting.

  • [ Event Details ]
  • The last 13 regularly scheduled EMT meetings have been cancelled. The EMT last convened on Wednesday February 12th.
  • Cannabis Observer expects this week’s EMT meeting will likely be cancelled in relation to the Listen and Learn Forum.

Thursday May 21st

On Thursday at 10am PT, the bi-weekly WSLCB Marijuana Traceability Project (MTP) Integrator Work Session was scheduled to recur.

  • [ Event Details ]
  • The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) Integrator Work Session convenes agency technical staff and third-party software providers which interface with the State's cannabis supply chain traceability system, Leaf Data Systems by vendor MJ Freeway/Akerna.

Some software integrators sought clarification from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) about guidance put forth by the agency prohibiting the use of Lab Result Global Identifiers by anyone except testing laboratories.

  • When a cannabis testing lab performs work and reports the outcome to the MJ Freeway Leaf traceability system, the package of test result information is assigned a unique Lab Result Global Identifier (GUID) which is supposed to be associated with the cannabis product lot under test. These identifiers---also referred to as lab result codes---follow the format of all of MJ Freeway's global identifiers and are supposed to be inherited by cannabis products derived from the parent lot. In the event of sales of cannabis products involving transfers, the lab result GUID and associated documentation---which may include a certificate of analysis (COA)---are made available to the new product owner.
  • As with many features of MJ Freeway, there have been and remain issues.
  • Lab Result GUIDs are critically important in the design of the supply chain traceability approach requested by the WSLCB and implemented by MJ Freeway/Akerna. Samples from cannabis lots are tested by labs to ensure public health and assigned a pass or fail value. The WSLCB wanted forward progress of a lot into the supply chain to be gated by the approval of an accredited lab and enforced automatically by the traceability system. That gating functionality was not achieved until MJ Freeway's troublesome release 1.37.5 in July 2019---nearly 1.5 years after the system's introduction---after which manifests for transfer of product could not be generated without a valid Lab Result GUID.
  • The WSLCB did not intend for Lab Result GUIDs to be duplicated outside of the hierarchy traced by a tested cannabis lot's derivative products - after all, the test results for one lot of cannabis should never look precisely the same as the test results for another lot. Sadly, MJ Freeway never implemented checks to ensure that Lab Result GUIDs could not be duplicated to other unrelated cannabis lots. With financial incentives to minimize testing costs and nothing structurally preventing the reuse of Lab Result GUIDs, there have been cases---perhaps many cases---of this kind of abuse. Unfortunately for the perpetrators, these instances of gaming the system were precisely documented. Although MJ Freeway was incapable of implementing dynamic checks against this abuse, the data itself tells the story.
  • Unfortunately, that's not the case for the magic identifier "WAATESTE" introduced with release 1.37.5 to support retroactive attestation of lab results. In the absence of a gating function requiring labs expend time to document test results in the traceability system, thousands of cannabis products did not have an assigned Lab Result GUID in July 2019. With the release of version 1.37.5 and its gating function, those products became unmovable and unsellable. The WSLCB and MJ Freeway agreed to introduce a magic identifier, "WAATESTE", which could be assigned to any cannabis product that was missing lab results to keep the product moving. This honor system was not subsequently turned off, and products continue to be assigned the "WAATESTE" identifier nearly a year later. Some of those usages may be legitimate, but there's no way to programmatically discern this - each instance would have to be investigated individually.
  • On May 1st, Marijuana Examiners Manager Kendra Hodgson announced that "labs do not have authorization from WSLCB to release the Leaf System [Lab Result] code" to licensees or third-party software integrators.
  • During the May 7th Integrator Work Session, OpenTHC CEO David Busby asked for clarification about the policy change. He attested to failures in MJ Freeway which necessitated legitimate applications of the Lab Result GUID to downstream products to maintain the integrity of the traceability data structure. He also decried continued allowance for the WAATESTE identifier which he argued compromised the integrity of the traceability data structure. Abuse of the former technique could be reliably traced, whereas the latter could not. As a result, Hodgson verbally committed to allowing the software integrators to continue utilizing the Lab Result GUIDs for legitimate use cases.
  • However, no commitments were obtained for rescinding the magic WAATESTE identifier - and it is unlikely the functionality will be changed. While the WSLCB's maintenance contract with MJ Freeway/Akerna allows for additional development in the event of critical issues, neither the State nor the vendor seem particularly interested in further collaboration. While vetting of some narrowly proscribed changes to MJ Freeway have been undertaken, there have been no subsequent releases nor patches of Washington's traceability system since release 1.37.5 in July 2019.

  • While formal rulemaking at the WSLCB was beginning to show signs of revival, progress on collaborative revisioning of the State’s approach to supply chain visibility and traceability remained halted. The WSLCB Traceability 2.0 Work Group met five times before its meetings were suspended due to the COVID-19 crisis. At publication time, members had received no signals from the WSLCB about renewing the collaboration.

On Thursday at 11am PT, a WSLCB Webinar on Cannabis Industry Guidance was scheduled by the agency’s Enforcement and Education division.

  • [ Event Details ]
  • WSLCB Enforcement Chief Justin Nordhorn planned to provide general guidance for cannabis licensees in response to industry questions and updates on special circumstances and recommendations in light of COVID-19. The event builds on an earlier webinar provided for cannabis retailers hosted on Monday April 13th.
  • According to the WSLCB announcement, topics the agency planned to address included:
    • What flavored cannabis vapor products can be legally sold?
    • Are returns and resale of product permitted?
    • Is marijuana home delivery legal?
    • Are there any changes to business funding processes?
  • The agency will field questions in the webinar chat and “Licensees are encouraged to submit questions in advance via email to until 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 20.