WSLCB - Board Caucus
(July 13, 2021) - Summary

WSLCB - Focus Group - Prevention Roundtable (June 3, 2021) - Presentation - Slide 21

The board heard a briefing on a statewide prevention roundtable leading to questions about prevention advocate engagement - and the synthesized cannabinoids investigation continued.

Here are some observations from the Tuesday July 13th Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) Board Caucus.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • Public Health Education Liaison Sara Cooley Broschart described the most recent closed WSLCB roundtable with public health officials and substance use prevention advocates.
    • Agency staff began hosting prevention roundtables in 2019. The previous roundtables were convened over two days in December 2020. On January 6th, several members of the WSLCB Cannabis Advisory Council (CAC) questioned the merits of the meetings being closed to the public.
    • Broschart established that the June 3rd meeting was the second statewide virtual gathering of prevention stakeholders. She said that only Board Chair David Postman was able to attend to avoid a board quorum, and the goal for the event was “to build relationships between LCB leadership and the prevention/public health community” (audio - 16m, video).
      • Broschart claimed that “public health and prevention are very low funded community groups so they often can’t be a presence” in policy development at WSLCB aside from Broschart’s own position. The events enabled agency leaders “to get out into the communities again,” she noted, praising former Board Chair Jane Rushford for committing to developing relationships there.
      • The events also made it possible for Broschart or other staff to “address questions and issues in real time,” as she often fielded “a lot of emails” from prevention advocates in her role at WSLCB. The roundtables were another opportunity for prevention stakeholders to “share experiences, input, and/or knowledge with LCB” she said, and at the same time to raise “particular” topics in order to “put an agenda together” for agency officials. All prevention roundtables in 2020 had been held virtually, but Broschart stated her intention to arrange regional meetings in October and December though specific locations and venues had not been determined at the time.
      • Noting the agenda, Broschart highlighted the “thoughtful” topics she’d covered in her presentation:
        • "Interplay of state and local...regulations and authorities in the cannabis space." She commented that many stakeholders didn’t “know the ins and outs of where our authority at LCB” overlapped with local governments and other state agencies, specifically “the statewide minimum standards localities can do” to set cannabis policies. Broschart indicated attendees wanted agency staff to do more than the existing notification to let local governments know that the agency had received an application for a cannabis business in jurisdictions with bans or moratoriums.
        • Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) “Weed to Know” Campaign. Broschart noted the District had partnered with area cannabis retailers “to get this messaging out at the point of sale.” The campaign focused on awareness around “impaired driving, safe storage, risk to youth, social norms, and addiction - and they added in one about use during pregnancy.”
        • Marijuana Infused Edibles (MIEs). Broschart said, "We’re always hearing from prevention/public health about the packaging and labeling issues, the edibles appealing to youth. That’s always a really hot point." During the event, she described the process used to determine “appealing to youth” and told board members about “key elements” that came to light in the conversation:
          • Prevention advocates were interested in having WSLCB representatives work with them “a little more closely” around the “definition of ‘appealing to youth’ and/or possibly bring youth into the process of deciding what is appealing.”
          • Attendees claimed other legal cannabis states “charge a fee for pre-approval of products” due to the “heavy workload” and that agency staff should “take a close look at that.”
          • Broschart remarked that Seattle and King County Public Health and University of Washington Addictions, Drug, and Alcohol Institute (UW ADAI) were assessing “what youth perspectives are on certain products and which sorts of things appeal to them.”
        • Concerns about temporary allowances for alcohol licensees, which were added to statute for three years via HB 1480 and went into effect on April 14th. Broschart reported that Policy and Rules Coordinator Audrey Vasek talked about the implementation of the bill, and mentioned prevention professionals offering public comment on the allowances during board meetings in August, September, and October 2020.
      • The planning team setting the event agenda included public health officials and prevention leaders:
      • Broschart said of 125 registered participants “92 people came and most” stayed for the entire roundtable, including the “WSLCB agency policy work group.” Following the event, she surveyed attendees and reported that 96% of participants felt it “was a somewhat/very productive use of their time” and that 89% felt the event “met its objectives.” Broschart speculated the second response had been depressed as “unfortunately, a couple days after this event, we did announce the Joints for Jabs” program, creating “issues there, of course, where folks were not feeling like they were as heard.”
        • SRHD officials did not participate in the Joints for Jabs effort led by Spokane retailers. According to a spokesperson, the regional health district’s refusal to facilitate COVID-19 vaccinations was due to ‘Concern about the potential loss of federal funding, and a conflict of interest with the district’s “Weed to Know” underage use campaign.’
      • Broschart relayed the appreciation of attendees for “a space kind of carved out for them to connect with WSLCB staff” as well as the accessibility afforded by virtually-held board meetings which removed some of the “red tape" some participants faced in traveling to in-person meetings, though “they still experience challenges.” She mentioned another attendee suggestion was to arrange for “all three board members” to attend a statewide public roundtable in the future in addition to continuing the regional roundtable events.
  • Board members had inquiries and comments about the substance of the prevention roundtable.
    • Board Member Russ Hauge asked for Broschart’s presentation and all “supporting documents that you got.” He then commented that the event exemplified “how we have to try to make some accommodations so we get all the board members” to attend as he felt “somewhat at a loss here" (audio - 2m, video).
      • Hauge was supportive of “more precision” in the process for determining “appealing to children” even by including “the audience that we’re all talking about.” He planned to meet with Broschart as quickly “as reasonably possible” to talk about how to support her work.
      • Broschart welcomed Hauge’s involvement and mentioned the DOH program, formerly called the Youth Marijuana Prevention and Education Program (YMPEP), had given her feedback about including “the pieces of our rule onto the checklist” utilized by Susan Harrell, the Licensing Program Specialist for Label Approval at WSLCB.
        • The DOH YMPEP appears to have been renamed the Youth Cannabis and Commercial Tobacco Prevention Program (YCCTPP). On July 7th, the YCCTPP issued a Request for Quotations and Qualifications (RFQQ) which sought “to provide medically and scientifically accurate information about the health and safety risks posed by cannabis/marijuana use and to increase public awareness of laws governing marijuana use in Washington State. The initial campaign objectives will target youth and young adults aged 12-20, their parents, and other influential adults in order to prevent underage cannabis/marijuana use and reduce current use by young people. Secondary goals may include raising awareness of the health and safety risks of retail cannabis/marijuana use among adults and implementing tailored strategies to audiences that suffer unique unintended consequences from cannabis/marijuana legalization.”
    • Postman commented that the drive for “youth engagement” in the labeling process was spearheaded in “good conversations” led by Greg Williamson, Director of Youth Engagement at the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF). He indicated Williamson was coordinating several interested agencies and was in favor of including “young people in it.” Postman further supported having one roundtable a year be open to the public so that the entire board could attend, saying it was “not just good for the board members to hear, but I think it elevates the conversation for the public as well.” He found the timing of the Joints for Jabs program “unfortunate,” admitting public health officials “were not adequately notified,” but noted that policymaking was on-going within WSLCB “all the time” (audio - 2m, video).
    • Postman asked about prevention advocate concerns about cannabis business licensing in localities with bans and moratoria increasing “pressure [on] the local government to lift the ban.” Broschart felt that lobbying from business constituents unable to operate in their community meant that a local ban was “always contested” as there was an “economic reason to keep pushing at it.” She believed a “power differential” emerged as objections to local cannabis businesses couldn’t always sustain community support, especially while public health officials “were on COVID[-19] detail this whole time.” Moreover, “sometimes at this city or county level” prevention advocates didn’t understand “what [license issuance] means either” and there were opportunities “for more clarity” (audio - 7m, video). 
      • Postman noted earlier outreach by agency representatives to officials in areas with bans or moratoria to see if they were interested in allowing cannabis retail to increase chances for social equity in the cannabis sector. He said some local leaders “weren’t even aware” their jurisdictions had restrictions and that “the timing is probably ripe for some bigger conversation about this.” Postman further speculated that WSLCB staff had contributed to keeping reconsideration of bans and moratoria “alive there" by issuing licenses. Broschart saw local engagement by the agency as an opportunity to include prevention advocates to “tag onto that or to follow up.” The potential for “restrictive” zoning instead of an outright prohibition on the businesses had been raised, with Postman observing that “we’ve talked a little bit about it with the big group, too” that local regulations shouldn’t be a choice of completely banning cannabis businesses vs. reliance on state restrictions. He acknowledged regulators and prevention advocates would still have to develop ways to minimize risk and “address youth issues.” Including appropriate stakeholders before decisions get made was a constant struggle of government institutions, argued Postman.
      • Postman stated that he’d heard from participants at the roundtable about a “hesitancy” for some representatives “to come before the board, to testify” on behalf of public health agencies without prior-approval, “or putting themselves as a target.” He believed the best solution was having a “more public conversation about it and make it a more normal part” of WSLCB meetings. Postman also credited Broschart as representing the interests of prevention stakeholders “in a really powerful, meaningful way for us and I’ve learned a lot.” Broschart joked that “if we had three more [public health education liaisons] I’m sure all three” would be working hard. She then noted that her position was uncommon in other states, but that “there was somebody just hired in Oregon” for a similar post.
  • Board Member Russ Hauge and Chair David Postman discussed action around processors converting imported cannabidiol (CBD) into delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9-THC).
    • Under an impression that there could be “an enforcement action pending” on concerns about “delta-9 from CBD,” Hauge noted that the board had not stated “the policy that we're pursuing” with regards to synthesized delta-9-THC. He suggested it was appropriate that he not know specifics of ongoing investigations, but did want a sense of whether Postman and Board Member Ollie Garrett thought enforcement officers needed to “accomodate” the products, "interdict" and remove them from stores, or “something in between” (audio - 1m, video).
    • Postman didn’t believe a decision had been made on an “enforcement action,” only that an investigation was “underway.” He expected the board conversation about their position would resume “when we get the read from Enforcement, Licensing, [and] the Director’s office,” and the “legal interpretation” of counsel for WSLCB. Postman admitted he didn’t “know what the right process would then be to inform us” but staff were perfectly clear on the “high level of interest among our licensees about this.” He felt any board decisions should be conveyed to all stakeholders (audio - 2m, video). 
    • Hauge observed that since a representative of a licensee had publicly confirmed they engaged in synthesis of cannabinoids using “a proprietary system that we’re not going to tell you about,” and as the practice was “disruptive to the market,” there were several actions he supported. He wanted to know “when we are going to address this situation” (audio - 1m, video).
    • Postman responded that work was continuing “in the proper place” within the agency, and that Enforcement staff would reach out to the board for policy “interpretation” if needed. He promised that agency leaders would offer “some sort of public communication” of any interpretation relevant to synthesized delta-9-THC and said that once enforcement officers investigating the practice knew “what that process it looks to them, then they’re going to act” and the board would adjudicate any violations issued as a result (audio - 1m, video).
    • Hauge concluded that he felt “in the dark" and didn’t know what agency staff were doing, nor “what policy we are following” and whether it would lead to interdiction of synthesized cannabinoid products “or whether we are going to accommodate delta-9 from CBD.” He hoped to “have that conversation as soon as is reasonably possible” (audio - <1m, video).
    • Postman commented that once there was “analysis or position on that” from staff, the conversation Hauge wanted the board to have would be “appropriate.” However, until then "we should not be involved in the investigation, we should not direct” the judgment of enforcement officers as the board could express any disagreement once the findings of the investigation were presented. “And I have faith that they’re doing it in the right way,” concluded Postman (audio - 1m, video).

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