The Week Ahead
(April 15, 2024)

WSLCB - Darkness

WSLCB leaders would meet privately with public health and prevention advocates to hear their perspectives, presenting another opportunity to ask why these events remain hidden.

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

Monday April 15th

WSLCB - Focus Group - Public Health and Prevention Roundtable

On Monday at 2pm PT, Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) leadership and staff planned to host a closed focus group with representatives of selected public health and prevention partner organizations.

  • [ Event Details ]
  • Unbeknownst to members of the public relying upon broadcast communications from WSLCB staff to stay apprised of opportunities to engage with agency leaders on subjects of potential interest, Cannabis Observer learned that Chair David Postman and Public Health Education Liaison Kristen Haley planned to continue a tradition of hosting invite-only roundtable events with the leadership of prevention organizations on Monday afternoon.
    • Despite repeated encouragement to open these events more broadly, the only change appeared to be a widening of the circle to include “Public Health” representatives - though officials from the Washington State Health Care Authority (WA HCA), the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), and Public Health - Seattle and King County had been participants in past events.
    • Characteristic of these events, individuals judged to have any association with “the industry” were explicitly excluded from participation.  As we have observed over the years, this includes regulated communities and their representatives; patients and designated providers; consumers; and journalists.
  • In addition to restricting participation, the events have not been recorded and minutes are not kept.
    • From an excluded perspective, the subject matter discussed can only be inferred after the fact by requesting and sifting through public records such as agendas, notes, presentations, and chat logs.
    • As no effort has been made to provide a narrative of the proceedings, interested parties may be inclined to fill in the blanks in a way that may be more reflective of their own presumptions and biases.
  • The preemptively adversarial positioning of closed meetings like the WSLCB roundtables—which are by no means the only exclusive events hosted by public health representatives, the prevention community, and their private sector partners—creates and furthers division between stakeholder groups.
    • A problematic fact is that public health and prevention stakeholders have decades of experience interacting with representatives from the alcohol, tobacco, vapor product, and pharmaceutical sectors.  The cannabis “industry” is lumped together with the purveyors of some of the deadliest and most addictive controlled substances with a sordid history of purposeful evasion of responsibility for victimizing generations of adults and youth.
    • The historical experience of working against those sectors has led public health and prevention representatives to proactively interpret the popular rise of cannabis decriminalization and legalization movements along with the commercialization of cannabis production as the emergence of a new adversary.
  • The weight of this historical baggage can be confusing for people who consider themselves cannabis advocates.
    • Cannabis has federally acknowledged medicinal dimensions regulated by some of the same public health entities which will be in attendance at the WSLCB roundtable - albeit individuals from different parts of these large organizations.
    • Most cannabis advocates would agree that representatives of the alcohol, tobacco, vapor product, and pharmaceutical sectors have undertaken strategies and repeatedly demonstrated tactics which do not serve as a model.  Many cannabis advocates seek to purposefully exclude those sectors from gaining a foothold within cannabis for the same reasons that public health officials are concerned.
    • Helpfully, that nuance is understood by organizations like the Cannabis Regulators Association (CANNRA) which has adopted a policy for its external stakeholder meetings that “Individuals may not attend representing an entity manufacturing or distributing tobacco, alcohol, or pharmaceutical products.”
  • While the opportunity to make the roundtable events more inclusive and transparent remains open in the future, WSLCB leadership intend to host another set of events to bring together public health, prevention, research, cannabis sector, and potentially other stakeholder groups around the subject of “high-THC cannabis products.”
    • First suggested publicly by Board Member Jim Vollendroff during the at times acrimonious 2024 legislative session, WSLCB leadership warmed to the idea of convening stakeholder groups during the interim to see if shared middle ground or even alignment could be achieved on the importance of regulating some higher concentration cannabis products differently from others.
    • At publication time, Haley had indicated to me that planning for these events was moving forward and centered on questions about whom to invite, the structure of the meetings, subject matter to be addressed, and other considerations.
    • Hopefully, agency leaders will acknowledge the value of proactively hosting these events openly and transparently for the benefit of the wider public as well as all stakeholder groups.

Tuesday April 16th

WSLCB - Board Caucus

On Tuesday at 10am PT, the weekly WSLCB Board Caucus was scheduled to recur.

  • [ Event Details ]
  • While the agenda did not specifically include an update on the proceedings of the previous day, Chair Postman could update his colleagues during the always scheduled but rarely exercised opportunity for ”Board Member and Executive Assistant Reports.”

Wednesday April 17th

At publication time, no cannabis-related policymaking events were scheduled.

Thursday April 18th

Washington Traffic Safety Commission - Commission Meeting

On Thursday at 10am PT, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) was scheduled to convene its quarterly meeting.

Friday April 19th

At publication time, no cannabis-related policymaking events were scheduled.