The Week Ahead
(August 31, 2020)

WSLCB would host a listen and learn forum and board meeting, while Seattle HEMPFEST was granted another opportunity to make its case to revise cannabis advertising law.

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

Monday August 31st

On Monday at 10am PT, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) COVID Legal/Policy/Rules Meeting was scheduled to recur.

  • [ Event Details ]
  • Agency staff leadership, Board Chair Jane Rushford, and Assistant Attorney General Bruce Turcott convene multiple times per week via webinar to discuss policy-related questions raised in the context of the pandemic.
  • This internal meeting of the agency is largely non-observable. Public records requests have produced versions of a policy tracking spreadsheet used by agency staff to record questions presented by licensees or their representatives. Subsequent discussions by the group were tersely summarized along with planned responses to questions, the majority of which were fielded from alcohol licensees. Besides a calendar invitation, no other responsive records have been produced from our requests - no agendas, no recordings, no documents, no personal notes taken by attendees. However, we deferred requesting responsive emails to expedite processing.
  • On Wednesday August 26th, we received a (redacted) version of the spreadsheet covering the majority of the COVID Legal/Policy/Rules Meetings. It describes a flurry of activity in mid-March in response to the Governor’s initial batch of proclamations and the many uncertainties attendant to the State’s response to the pandemic. The provenance of many of the temporary allowances afforded cannabis licensees were indicated. And pushback from public health and prevention advocates was similarly documented, such as a May 22nd query from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and the Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA) Department of Behavioral Health and Recovery (DBHR) “requesting data on alcohol and marijuana sales to use as an indicator of use, and to forecast the adverse behavioral health affects due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
  • Cannabis Observer will continue to track and reconstruct the policy discussions and actions taken in these closed door meetings.

Tuesday September 1st

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

  • [ Event Details ]
  • The agenda for the caucus indicated board members planned to hear a rulemaking update in preparation for Wednesday’s board meeting.

On Tuesday at 2pm PT, the WSLCB Listen and Learn Forum on the Implementation of HB 2826 was scheduled to occur.

  • [ Event Details ]
  • WSLCB Policy and Rules staff began the rulemaking project in early July to implement HB 2826, a bill requested by WSLCB which established definitions for "characterizing flavors" of concern for public health and "youth access" as well as a framework for prohibition of additives in the wake of the vapor associated lung injury health scare.
  • Review of the draft conceptual rules would be divided across two events, with the first forum focused on new definitions for “Characterizing flavor” at 314-55-010(4) and new definitions of “Terpenes”, “Botanical terpenes”, “Synthetic terpenes”, and “Terpenoids” at 314-55-010(40).
  • Separately, Cannabis Observer continued to track progress at the Washington State Board of Health (SBOH) towards permanent rulemaking to prohibit the use of vitamin E acetate in non-THC as well as marijuana vapor products. Although that rulemaking would likely be made redundant after the implementation and use of WSLCB’s new framework to prohibit hardware devices or substances of concern, at publication time SBOH was proceeding to permanently encode a distinct rule to regulate WSLCB’s vapor and marijuana licensees, having most recently filed a CR-102 with proposed rules on August 21st.

Wednesday September 2nd

On Wednesday at 10am PT, the WSLCB COVID Legal/Policy/Rules Meeting was scheduled to recur.

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

  • [ Event Details ]
  • At publication time, no agenda was available for the Board Meeting. However, we may see the CR-103 with final rules for the True Party of Interest rulemaking project offered for adoption, as projected by WSLCB Policy and Rules Manager Kathy Hoffman in late June. Two comments were offered during the public hearing on August 5th.

The weekly WSLCB Executive Management Team (EMT) meeting was cancelled.

Friday September 4th

On Friday at 9am PT, the Thurston County Superior Court was scheduled to host a hearing to reconsider the Seattle Events et al v. State of Washington et al case regarding cannabis advertising law.

  • [ Event Details ]
  • In early April 2019 during an EMT meeting, WSLCB Enforcement Chief Justin Nordhorn indicated the agency planned to confirm its position against advertising of cannabis products and trade names in and around public parks. On April 18th, WSLCB Enforcement Advertising Coordinator Matt McCallum posted a bulletin on “Advertising at events within 1,000 feet of prohibited areas” precipitating concerns and confusion.
  • In early June 2019, a lawsuit was filed by Seattle HEMPFEST and retailers Universal Holdings LLC and Multiverse Holdings LLC in Thurston County Superior Court seeking an injunction against WSLCB enforcement of ‘vague and confusing pronouncements that have the effect of intimidating licensed marijuana businesses from participating at Seattle Hempfest and from supporting the Hempfest “Protestival” through messages that suggest that licensees can and will be cited for violating “advertising” regulations, which can result in fines, penalties and even loss of licenses.’
  • During their caucus on June 11th, WSLCB board members expressed surprise at the lawsuit. “After hearing from and working with stakeholders in the licensee community,” on June 26th WSLCB Enforcement issued a revised bulletin as the agency “understood that Bulletin 19-01 did not fully answer all of the licensees’ questions and raised some additional concerns.” While considered a victory enabling licensed businesses to post signs at HEMPFEST, the lawsuit was continued.
  • The suit proceeded in Thurston County Superior Court in a direction unfavorable to the plaintiffs, resulting in the presiding judge granting the State defendants’ proposed motion for summary judgment earlier in the month on August 10th. The next day, the plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration claiming a judgment in a United States Supreme Court case in the intervening time had substantially shifted the relevant body of jurisprudence. The judge granted the motion and would hear the plaintiffs’ revised arguments on Friday morning.

On Friday at 10am PT, the WSLCB COVID Legal/Policy/Rules Meeting was scheduled to recur.