The Week Ahead
(October 5, 2020)

WSLCB opened its virtual doors more widely for a second BIPOC engagement and the Traceability 2.0 work group may hear about a sole source contract to renew the open data portal.

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

Monday October 5th

On Monday at 10am PT, the Washington State Health Care Authority (WA HCA) Pre-Proposal Conference Webinar for RFP 2020HCA11 was scheduled to occur.

  • [ Event Details, RFP Information Set ]
  • On September 4th, WA HCA issued Request for Proposals (RFP) 2020HCA11 “for a Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Prevention and Mental Health Promotion Online Reporting System (SUD Px MHP) along with system implementation services.” The solicitation was issued within Washington’s Electronic Business Solutions (WEBS) vendor portal (identifier 44360) and closes October 20th.
    • The RFP was not published to WA HCA’s publicBids and contractsscreen where “HCA posts all sole source contracts and some other contract documents...”
  • At publication time, at least 53 potential bidders had downloaded the RFP.
    • That included bots or services which automatically download many or all RFPs posted to WEBS. Still, based on observations of many other RFPs for a range of requestors, this is one of the largest pools of potential vendors we have thus far observed.
    • WEBS users have the option to not display their actions within the portal, so the number of potential bidders is higher.
  • The webinar was intended to provide potential bidders an opportunity to interface directly with WA HCA’s RFP Coordinator to address questions. Rather than an open meeting, the webinar would instead be accessible to “Bidders who submit a Letter of Intent by the date described in Section 2.3, Estimated Schedule of Procurement Activities.” All questions would be documented and addressed in written form, then subsequently distributed on October 8th, including to WEBS.
    • Cannabis Observer will not directly observe this event.
  • Prior to WA HCA’s webinar on “Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Washington” last week, we described some of the reasons why Cannabis Observer was observing the agency more closely.

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.
  • Originally having met daily every work day, the schedule of meetings was shifted to 3x per week (M, W, F) on June 10th.
  • During the Washington State Senate Labor and Commerce Committee (WA Senate LBRC) work session on September 28th, Enforcement Chief Justin Nordhorn said “our Legal/Policy team is meeting twice a week” (audio - 3m) indicating a change in schedule we had not previously been aware of. We’ll update our archive of events once we’ve confirmed the revised schedule.

On Monday at 1pm PT, the second WSLCB Engagement with BIPOC communities was scheduled to occur.

  • [ Event Details ]
  • Prompted by the passage of HB 2870 in the spring of 2020, the WSLCB committed to scheduling a series of engagements with "communities of color."
    • Cannabis Observer opted to use the terminology "black, indigenous, and people of color" (BIPOC) rather than "communities of color" in recognition of the likelihood that perceptions about the WSLCB may not be shared within racial and/or ethnic groups, and the so-called war on drugs disproportionately impacted African American communities in Washington and across the United States.
  • Originally intending to host five engagements, the agency committed to three virtual events, of which this will be the second.
  • On September 29th, WSLCB hosted the first BIPOC Engagement. An at times contentious facilitated meeting provided an opportunity for agency leadership to hear from people of color about social equity in the industry and WSLCB’s practices. However, barriers to entry which caused Cannabis Observer to miss direct observation of the first 45 minutes of the meeting may have suppressed some participants’ voices.
  • At the next day’s WSLCB board meeting on September 30th, I addressed the Board during general public comment and recommended they reconfigure the WebEx Events registration process to avoid the appearance of gatekeeping access to engagements intended for inclusion of perspectives from marginalized communities.
  • On Friday afternoon, October 2nd, WSLCB Communications staff emailed previously registered participants to clarify “we have made changes to the registration and access process for the October 5 session. Once you have registered, your registration does not have to be approved. You will also not need a password.”

Tuesday October 6th

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

  • [ Event Details ]
  • The Board last met in caucus on September 29th. During that meeting, Member Russ Hauge asked Member Ollie Garrett if the Board would hear about the BIPOC engagements at the October 6th board caucus.

Wednesday October 7th

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 agency’s last EMT meeting was hosted on September 16th. Although still listed as a weekly event, the Board has indicated these meetings will be hosted monthly through the end of the calendar year.
  • During the September 29th board caucus, Chair Jane Rushford mentioned her interest in focusing the next EMT “mid-month” on the agency’s social equity efforts.  Accordingly, we expect this EMT meeting will be cancelled.

Thursday October 8th

On Thursday, the comment period on the Interim Final Rule establishing the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Federal Domestic Hemp Program closes.

Friday October 9th

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

On Friday at 10:30am PT, the WSLCB Traceability 2.0 Work Group was scheduled to reconvene.

  • [ Event Details ]
  • The WSLCB Traceability 2.0 Work Group is composed of industry stakeholders and agency staff vetting the next generation of cannabis supply chain transparency in Washington state. Originally formed nearly one year ago, this will be the group’s first meeting since late February prior to the State’s response to the pandemic. Participants were told “[WSLCB Deputy Director] Megan [Duffy] would like to schedule a meeting with this group in the next few weeks to discuss where we are on the traceability approach.”
  • The agency’s commitment of resources to traceability plateaued and declined in 2020 following the failure of Akerna/MJ Freeway to instill confidence with their deployment of the final release of Leaf Data Systems in July 2019. The vendor continued to extract $50K per month from Washington 502 licensees for the privilege of facilitating the operation of Washington’s cannabis marketplace while obtaining the most complete and timely information about all transactions within Washington’s cannabis supply chain as well as every sale to consumers through its continuous surveillance. It’s Cannabis Observer’s understanding that a snapshot view on that information was provided to WSLCB on a daily basis, while the public could request a single copy provided to WSLCB by Akerna for that purpose once per month.
  • In 2020, third-party software providers whose products interface to Leaf Data Systems (Integrators) had their bi-weekly calls with WSLCB cut back to monthly calls with the addition of representatives from Akerna/MJ Freeway and a much stricter policy for soliciting potential agenda items. Prior to the September 24th Integrator Work Session, I relayed a concern about “voided manifests causing downstream revenue reporting errors.” Despite initial interest from agency leadership in the issue, the item was not added to the agenda and the work session was cancelled. Following up, I was told “This item was discussed internally and with MJ Freeway (Akerna). It may be addressed in a future integrator meeting, until such time, that is all the detail that I have available to share.”
  • When the Akerna/MJ Freeway contract was suspended prior to completion, one of the outstanding items remaining to be implemented was an integration with WSLCB’s open data portal. Previously a useful public repository of insight into Washington’s cannabis marketplace, most datasets stopped being updated in late 2017 coincident with the WSLCB’s switch from BioTrackTHC to MJ Freeway. The Socrata-based data portal has languished since then. However, on September 28th and once again in WEBS, WSLCB published a Notice of Intent to Sole Source a new contract with Socrata “to provide a Data Visualization solution to implement, manage, and administer a Marijuana Dashboard.” A year long contract valued at $34,870.00, other vendors interested in submitting “capability statements” must do so prior to October 9th [ RFP Information Set ].