The Week Ahead
(July 13, 2020)

In response to diminished transparency at WSLCB, Cannabis Observer began to obtain records about internal policy-related meetings where decision making continued during the pandemic.

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

Monday July 13th

On Monday, the staff of the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) will be obligated to take an agency-wide furlough day in accordance with a cost-saving directive signed by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee on June 17th.

  • WSLCB leadership chose Mondays in July as the weekday when all employees would not work, and third Mondays when the cadence switches to once per month in August through November. See the agency’s furlough days on Cannabis Observer’s WSLCB calendar.
  • WSLCB Board Members Ollie Garrett and Russ Hauge were furloughing on Tuesdays, therefore the Board cannot achieve a quorum for its regularly scheduled weekly caucus on Tuesdays. This information was mentioned in the official notes for the June 30th WSLCB COVID Incident Command meeting, an internal 30 minute webinar hosted each weekday at 9am for agency leadership and Board Chair Jane Rushford.

On Monday, the WSLCB COVID Legal/Policy/Rules Meeting was cancelled.

  • [ 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.
  • Originally having met daily every work day, the schedule of meetings was shifted to 3x per week (M, W, F) on June 10th. Agency furloughs in July resulted in cancellation of the Monday meetings.
  • First mentioned publicly in mid-April by Director Rick Garza, at that time he indicated there had been "over 80 issues that we’ve dealt with" in these meetings inclusive of alcohol, tobacco, vapor, and cannabis law, rule, and policy. "A lot of it...has to do with creating allowances," Garza stated, adding that agency staff had been "doing everything we could to assist” licensees during a period of restricted business and public activities.
  • Cannabis Observer has filed public records requests to learn more about the content of these internal meetings which otherwise leave no publicly visible trace beyond policy outcomes announced to stakeholders. As transparency into the agency’s workings has diminished in relation to the agency hosting fewer public meetings, we have begun seeking details about these internal policy-related meetings to provide a fuller picture of the WSLCB’s work. As we obtain records, we’ll populate historical event detail screens and draw attention to noteworthy information.
  • For example, see a COVID-19 Policy Tracking Spreadsheet excerpt where the subject of the agency’s policy on vendor days during the pandemic was introduced for clarification at the request of Magic Time Farms at the agency’s June 15th internal meeting.

Tuesday July 14th

On Tuesday at 10:00am PT, the regularly scheduled weekly WSLCB Board Caucus was scheduled to recur, but will almost certainly be cancelled.

  • [ Event Details ]
  • It is our understanding that the Board cannot achieve a quorum on Tuesdays in July, so we presume this meeting will be cancelled. At publication time, the WSLCB Board schedule had not been updated to indicate the meeting would be cancelled.
  • Last week, we presumed the Board would reschedule its caucus for Thursday as the Tuesday meeting had been cancelled in advance. Instead, the Board elected not to meet in caucus at all and never scheduled a Thursday meeting. We’ve updated our database of events and content to accurately reflect the Board’s official schedule.
  • Cannabis Observer reached out to Executive Assistant Dustin Dickson in late June to confirm the latest caucus schedule change. He replied, “...the Board will hold Caucus on Thursday (rather than Tuesday) next week. Due to furloughs and related schedule implications, the Board will hold Caucus on Thursdays through July. I’ll be updating the remainder of the online calendar to reflect these changes soon. The Board will also give appropriate consideration to the once-a-month furlough days in August, September, October and November as necessary.”
  • Should the Board subsequently post notice of a Thursday caucus this week, Cannabis Observer will archive the meeting materials and notify our readers of the change through social channels.

Wednesday July 15th

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

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 21 regularly scheduled EMT meetings have been cancelled. The EMT last convened on Wednesday February 12th.
  • EMT meetings are (were?) 40% of all regularly scheduled WSLCB public meetings by quantity and the only context in which agency staff consistently interacted with all three appointed WSLCB board members to communicate and coordinate the agency’s activities.
  • I asked the Board to bring back the EMT meetings during general public comment at last Wednesday’s Board Meeting, one of three opportunities I suggested to enable the agency to demonstrate continued commitment to openness and transparency in our new era of digitally-mediated citizen engagement.

Thursday July 16th

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

  • [ Event Details ]
  • The last two scheduled Integrator Work Sessions were cancelled. The group last convened on Thursday June 4th.
  • Agency staff encountered “technical difficulties” during the June 4th meeting which resulted in it not being recorded. A mixup occurred again prior to the June 18th meeting and participants were not notified the event had been cancelled. Despite receiving suggested agenda items for the July 2nd meeting, WSLCB System Administrator Joseph Kelly wrote: “There were items submitted for agenda consideration that did not meet criteria. We want to ensure those that submitted that your questions and issues have been recorded and are being worked through the appropriate channels.”
  • During the July 2nd Board Caucus, the Board received a “heads up” that Policy and Rules staff would be requesting the withdrawal of Board Interim Policy (BIP) 13-2019 regarding unapproved workarounds for MJ Freeway’s Leaf Data Systems. OpenTHC CEO David Busby subsequently addressed the Board at their July 8th meeting to let them know that although the agency had been told the interim policy was “aged out...that is not true.” He also drew attention to the cancellation of the Integrator Work Sessions where that subject could have been addressed.
  • Meanwhile, it was reported that MJ Freeway parent company Akerna acquired a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan for $2,204,600 at 1% interest. MJ Freeway currently extracts $50K per month from the WSLCB to operate its software platform. On July 8th, it acquired Canadian seed-to-sale platform vendor Ample Organics “for CAD$7.5 million in cash and approximately 3.3 million shares exchangeable into an equivalent number of Akerna common stock.”

Friday July 17th

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