The Week Ahead
(May 25, 2020)

Cannabis-related policymaking in Washington state was set to take another step forward as the WSLCB prepared to convene its first regular board meeting since February 5th.

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

Monday May 25th

Monday is Memorial Day, a federal holiday in the United States for honoring and mourning the military personnel who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Federal cannabis policy is a complicated story, but failure to help veterans access the medical benefits of cannabis is an on-going tragedy.

Here’s how the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs describes their current cannabis policy: “Veterans should know that federal law classifies marijuana as a Schedule One Controlled Substance. This makes it illegal in the eyes of the federal government. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is required to follow all federal laws including those regarding marijuana. As long as the Food and Drug Administration classifies marijuana as Schedule I VA health care providers may not recommend it or assist Veterans to obtain it.”

Tuesday May 26th

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

  • [ Event Details ]
  • The Board last convened in a regularly scheduled caucus on Tuesday May 12th. At publication time, the last time the Board physically met in-person was Tuesday March 10th.
  • This past Friday May 22nd, the Board organized an irregularly scheduled special board caucus to adopt updated agreements with the Suquamish Tribe, including extending the oldest marijuana compact between a Tribal Nation and a State through February 1st, 2030.

Wednesday May 27th

On Wednesday at 9am PT, the Washington State Board of Health (SBOH) planned to remotely convene the Governor’s Interagency Council on Health Disparities Office of Equity Task Force.

  • [ Event Details ]
  • The WSLCB’s agency request legislation, HB 2870, was signed into law on March 31st establishing a social equity program at WSLCB “to issue previously forfeited, cancelled, revoked, and unissued marijuana retailer licenses to eligible applicants adversely impacted by the enforcement of marijuana prohibition laws.” The bill also created a Marijuana Social Equity Task Force “to make recommendations to the LCB on the Program, including recommendations to establish and develop” the equity program.
  • Section 5 of the session law describes the task force’s purpose, composition, and constraints including a statutory requirement that the entity be organized and hold its first meeting by July 1st. Subsection 5 describes who is responsible for staffing the task force and effectively getting it started:
    • (5) Staff support for the task force, including arranging the first meeting of the task force and assisting the chair of the task force in arranging subsequent meetings, must be provided by the health equity council of the governor's interagency council on health disparities. If Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill No. 1783 is enacted by June 30, 2020, then responsibility for providing staff support for the task force must be transferred to the office of equity created by Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill No. 1783 when requested by the office of equity.
  • While HB 1783 was passed (with two line item vetoes) creating the Washington State Office of Equity, funding to support the agency was cut as part of the State’s preparations for fiscal fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, we speculated “In the absence of creative funding by the Office of the Governor, it appeared likely that staff support would be provided by the Council.”
  • The Governor's Interagency Council on Health Disparities was created by the Washington State Legislature in 2006 via SB 6197 following the recommendation by the Joint Select Committee on Health Disparities. The Council is responsible for identifying priorities and creating recommendations for the Governor and Legislature to eliminate health disparities by race / ethnicity and gender in Washington. The Council has 17 members including 14 individuals from state agencies, boards, and commissions, and three members selected by the Governor. The Council's statutory authority is described in RCW 43.20.275 wherein the SBOH is assigned funding and responsibility for convening the Council.
  • A proviso in the 2019-2021 biennial operating budget, HB 1109 (section 221, subsection 7), directs the Governor’s Interagency Council on Health Disparities to convene and staff an Office of Equity Task Force. The proviso outlines the task force’s membership and reporting requirements to the Legislature.  The purpose of the task force is to develop a proposal for the creation of a state office of equity. The office of equity is intended to promote access to equitable opportunities and resources that reduce disparities, including racial and ethnic disparities, and improve outcomes statewide across all sectors of government.
  • At the April 30th meeting of the task force, Washington State Office of the Governor Senior Policy Advisor for Civil & Human Rights RaShelle Davis, a member of the task force, “gave an update on the Governor’s funding decisions and the effect on legislation to create the WA State Office of Equity.” According to the draft meeting minutes:
    • She said E2SHB 1783 passed the Legislature as the COVID19 outbreak hit, which caused a worse budget outlook. In anticipation of the large budget shortfall, there was a partial veto to the bill, including section 6 (creating a community advisory board) and section 7 (agency responsibilities). Member Davis said the Governor still supports standing up an Office of Equity, and the Governor’s Office is looking at options for implementation and staffing. Member Davis said she hopes the Task Force can help prioritize the Office of Equity’s deliverables under these new circumstances.
  • Cannabis Observer has begun tracking the activity of the Council and Task Force in the hopes of gaining perspective on the likelihood of the Marijuana Social Equity Task Force meeting its July 1st statutory deadline for convening, a likelihood WSLCB Director Rick Garza recently stated was looking doubtful.

On Wednesday at 10am PT, the bi-weekly WSLCB Board Meeting was scheduled to recur.

  • [ Event Details ]
  • The last seven regularly scheduled board meetings have been cancelled. The agency last convened a board meeting for formal rulemaking on Wednesday February 5th. The agency called a first irregularly scheduled Special Board Meeting on Friday March 27th and a second on Monday April 6th. During the March 27th Special Board meeting, the agency withdrew the CR-102 to pause the Quality Control (QC) Testing and Product Requirements rulemaking project.
  • During the April 28th and May 12th board caucuses, WSLCB Policy and Rules Manager Kathy Hoffman described plans for rulemaking activity at the May 27th board meeting.
    • Quality Control (QC) Testing and Product Requirements. Hoffman said she intended to ask for approval to re-file the QC rulemaking project’s CR-102. The public hearing would be rescheduled to the subsequent board meeting on July 8th. She stressed the only difference between the original CR-102 and the new one would be “rescheduling the hearing date” and “updating the timelines appropriately.”
    • Emergency Rulemaking - Vitamin E Acetate Prohibition. Four emergency rules around the ban on usage of vitamin E acetate in vapor products were revised and extended by the Board on February 5th. Hoffman reported that the agency would re-file the emergency rules to extend their effective period at this week’s board meeting. Rather than predicate the rule on State Board of Health (SBOH) emergency rules, the next prohibition would exercise the agency’s new authorities granted in HB 2826, which was signed into law on March 25th. Hoffman added that HB 2826 gave the framework needed for the ban to be “held in place” should SBOH rules lapse before WSLCB’s permanent rulemaking on the matter was finalized.

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.

Thursday May 28th

On Thursday at 1pm PT, the WSLCB Listen and Learn Forum for the Voluntary Compliance Program (VCP) Rulemaking Project was scheduled to convene remotely.

  • [ Event Details ]
  • Originally scheduled for March 11th, this event was rescheduled as a remote-only webinar on the morning of March 10th in light of COVID-19 concerns. Rescheduled for March 17th, 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, “WSLCB solicited input from licensees at two meetings to develop the draft conceptual rules we’ll be discussing during this Listen and Learn session. ” Cannabis Observer attended and documented both of the meetings of the WSLCB VCP Work Group.
  • Wednesday’s Listen and Learn Forum will cover conceptual draft rules dated February 25th. The VCP rulemaking project, initiated in mid-July 2019, remains at the introductory CR-101 stage.