As the Governor’s Proclamations unfurled towards the May 4th expiration of his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, the prospects for renewed cannabis policymaking remained uncertain.
Here’s a look at cannabis-related policymaking events on Cannabis Observer’s calendars in the week ahead.
Tuesday April 28th
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 caucus on Tuesday April 14th. At publication time, the last time the Board physically met in-person was Tuesday March 10th.
- Governor Jay Inslee’s Proclamation 20-28 issued on March 24th temporarily modified the Open Public Meetings Act to prohibit agencies from conducting in-person public meetings through April 23rd. Inslee’s Proclamation 20-25.1 issued on April 2nd extended his Stay Home, Stay Healthy proclamation’s constraints on public movement through May 4th. And as WSLCB “Headquarters Building is currently CLOSED to minimize the spread of COVID-19,” the agency will not convene a public meeting in person for the foreseeable future.
- A close reading of Proclamation 20-28 indicates that only two of four sections were automatically rescinded on April 24th, both describing specific modifications to the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) and Public Records Act (PRA). The other two sections established more general prohibitions on the activity of agencies subject to the OPMA.
- The first provided an open-ended prohibition against hosting public meetings in person:
- Any public agency, subject to RCW 42.30, is prohibited from conducting any meeting, subject to RCW 42.30 unless (a) the meeting is not conducted in-person and instead provides an option(s) for the public to attend the proceedings through, at minimum, telephonic access, and may also include other electronic, internet or other means of remote access, and (b) provides the ability for all persons attending the meeting to hear each other at the same time.
- The second proscribed the “action” agencies subject to the OPMA could take prior to “regular public participation” becoming possible once again:
- Subject to the conditions for conducting any meeting as required above, agencies are further prohibited from taking “action,” as defined in RCW 42.30.020, unless those matters are necessary and routine matters or are matters necessary to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak and the current public health emergency, until such time as regular public participation under the Open Public Meetings Act is possible.
- At publication time, Cannabis Observer was not aware of any formal action by the Office of the Governor to extend or modify the dated provisions of Proclamation 20-28.
- On Tuesday April 21st, the Governor announced “Washington’s Recovery Plan” which provided the broad outlines of a “safe, healthy path back to normal” that “will look more like a turn of the dial than a flip of the switch” [ video ].
- The State aspires to take a data-driven approach to evaluate the lifting of sanctions which assumes the availability of widespread testing for COVID-19 infections. The Governor’s address claimed “a variety of barriers to accessing the necessary supplies have prevented Washington from processing more than 4,000 tests a day” although the Department of Health Coronavirus website reports cumulative daily test results reaching between 4-5K as early as mid-March.
- The State aspires to conduct analytical tracing of proximity contacts with persons infected with COVID-19 which would require “processing between 20,000 and 30,000 tests a day” to prove helpful. Towards that end, the Governor penned a letter to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence making specific recommendations for federal testing support and mentioned Washington was attempting to procure “2.5 million test collection kits to support optimal testing levels.”
- Contact tracing was conducted by state and local health authorities throughout Washington in the early days of the outbreak, but that prevention activity was sidelined when limited resources were re-prioritized as the pandemic escalated. Inslee called for renewed and increased reliance upon contact tracing to target specific individuals for testing and quarantine, aiming to increase a contact tracing “fire brigade” to 1500 dedicated professionals by mid-May, including a request for the assistance of 500 National Guard reservists.
- The Washington State Department of Health has been in consultation with tech giants Apple and Google, which have partnered to develop an opt-in framework for allegedly anonymized contact tracing based on the recording of Bluetooth identifiers typically broadcast by mobile phones. The University of Washington has worked with volunteers from Microsoft to develop a similar app called CovidSafe.
- While the observation of Bluetooth identifiers has long been used as a corporate surveillance technique developed for advertising purposes, the potential marriage of state and corporate surveillance infrastructures in the name of public health is a novel development.
- The Governor’s plan does not foresee a return to “normal” until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed and made widely available: “Even after the order is lifted, workplaces will continue to look and operate differently until a COVID-19 vaccine is available. Continued physical distancing, teleworking and other measures will continue to be necessary to keep workers and customers safe.”
Wednesday April 29th
On Wednesday at 10am PT, the bi-weekly WSLCB Board Meeting was scheduled to recur.
- [ Event Details ]
- The last five 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 to conduct emergency rulemaking enabling retailers to defer excise tax payments and withdraw the CR-102 to pause the Quality Control (QC) Testing and Product Requirements rulemaking project. The agency called a second irregularly scheduled Special Board Meeting on Monday April 6th to conduct emergency rulemaking claiming a specific authority to suspend licenses to enforce Governor’s Proclamations, and delegated that authority to the Chief of Enforcement.
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.