WSLCB - Executive Management Team
(August 10, 2022) - Social Equity, Research, Outreach


Agency leaders talked about progress towards a social equity program, Canadian research on cannabis use and access, and various outreach engagements.

Here are some observations from the Wednesday August 10th Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) Executive Management Team (EMT) meeting.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • Staff provided a briefing on several social equity changes in rules, disproportionately impacted areas (DIAs), training opportunities, prioritization of applications, and media engagements.
    • Director of Licensing Becky Smith referred to the social equity rulemaking project as “just a start” towards what her division was doing on the subject (audio - 7m, WSLCB video, TVW video).
      • They had partnered with staff at the Washington State Department of Commerce (WA Commerce) on a program covering “technical assistance model courses" that were on track to “go live in September.” The department would also begin accepting applications for their mentor roster, she explained, and a list of accepted mentors was planned for release in January 2023. WA Commerce staff would also be able to assist applicants with the required social equity plan, reported Smith, and regular meetings between the agencies continued. 
      • Speaking about the creation of maps of disproportionately impacted areas (DIAs) by researchers at the University of Washington (UW), Smith discussed meeting with task force members and UW staff on August 4th. Researchers informed the group they were missing “conviction data” from King County, she relayed, and wanted to make changes to the formula. Smith attributed delayed completion of DIA maps to these issues, suggesting staff were “crossing our fingers” that task force members would agree after a UW briefing to WA SECTF on August 23rd. If that group didn’t approve changes, “we will be moving forward with the recommendations from licensing division on making those changes, it will open up more areas” as DIAs, something she called “the best path forward” without explaining whether/how licensing recommendations differed from the changes sought by UW representatives.
      • Smith’s team was also planning for equity applicant training by way “of live workshops” conducted virtually “and recorded videos." She said they’d be reaching out to potential facilitators to run the trainings, and would communicate with community stakeholders and WA Commerce officials about why trainings shouldn’t be run by WSLCB staff.
      • A request for proposals (RFP) for a third-party vendor to prioritize social equity applicants was released the previous week, Smith noted, with additional distribution through the Washington State Office of Minority & Women's Business Enterprises (OMWBE) and the Washington State Procurement Technical Assistance Center (WA PTAC). The RFP contained an anticipated contract start date of September 30th and Smith reported that they’d conducted a “pre-proposal conference” which drew three participants. Bids from vendors would be due by August 26th, she continued, and staff would determine an “apparent successful bidder” on September 9th.
      • Staff were drafting a “how to guide for those 40 applicants who are selected to go through” the equity application window, stated Smith, and it would be posted online to help applicants “understand the next steps in the licensing process.”
      • Board Chair David Postman looked for clarification on the difference between the WA Commerce and WSLCB training, which Smith distinguished as a "how to develop your business" course from Commerce, while WSLCB training was on "how do you apply for a license" covering “working with the local authorities,” paperwork, leases, and other details. Postman thought that training sounded “robust” (audio - 2m, WSLCB video, TVW video).
    • Director of Communications Brian Smith said Board Member Ollie Garrett would be sitting for an interview on social equity with a “Seattle TV station…in the next two weeks or so.” Rule language revisions due to HB 1210—changing mentions of ‘marijuana’ to ‘cannabis’---resulted in rulemaking to implement that bill adopted on July 6th which Smith felt had been comprehensive. He remarked that staff were updating wording across the agency website, but wouldn’t alter previous press releases “for legacy reasons, for historical reasons” after WSLCB was given authority for cannabis through Initiative 502. Smith added that a few rule sections hadn’t been changed, but was told by Policy and Rules Manager Kathy Hoffman that the reason was “because we have an open rulemaking” that precluded other edits to those sections until a rulemaking project was complete. Equity information on the agency website was continuing to be updated, he concluded, and would continue as his “top priority” as they prepared for an application licensing window (audio - 5m, WSLCB video, TVW video).
    • Director of Policy and External Affairs Justin Nordhorn brought up his involvement in the WA SECTF work group on production regulation, acknowledging reservations about some of the group’s potential recommendations on “general business type of impacts.” He also made a passing mention of WSLCB social equity request legislation (audio - 1m, WSLCB video, TVW video).
  • Officials reviewed other engagements by agency leaders to lobby for federal cannabis banking reforms, conduct outreach to medical cannabis patients, and special committee work with the Cannabis Regulators Association (CANNRA).
    • Brian Smith spoke about his work with U.S. Cannabis Council (USCC) members for advertising on the SAFE Banking Act, conveying that in May USCC staff visited WSLCB to help create talking points and film Director of Enforcement and Education Chandra Brady, who then attended a USCC-sponsored congressional briefing event in Washington, D.C. in July. That event focused on getting SAFE Banking Act language “passed before the August recess,” he commented, and included the father of Jordan Brown, a Tacoma budtender killed during a robbery in March, as well as retail store owners. Smith credited Brady with describing their efforts to reduce occurrence of the crimes and his own liaising with other state and federal officials (audio - 3m, WSLCB video, TVW video).
    • Nordhorn talked about "more outreach to the medical cannabis community" he’d engaged in “locally, and nationally” to see what was effective in other states’ medical cannabis systems and what patients in Washington thought of them. Compared with other programs, he recognized “we don't have a robust register in the state where a lot of” patients were participating, and estimated there were “around 13,000 people” in the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) registry. Nordhorn’s rough estimate for the total number of patients “based on population and comparable numbers that other states utilize” was that there would be between 80,000-85,000 patients in Washington. He claimed the registry had a “decrease of 7.8% use” between 2019 and 2020, and “another 5.4% decrease” between 2020 and 2021 and remarked that he was looking at partnering with DOH staff and lawmakers to make “some of these…systems meet the intended goals” of past legislation (audio - 2m, WSLCB video, TVW video). 
    • Nordhorn also brought up CANNRA special committees, indicating he was part of a team “trying to put together an explainer” for the general purpose of “what does hemp look like in the current state, and what does it mean based on that 0.3% [tetrahydrocannabinol] THC on a dry weight basis.” Their intention, he said, was to find “what’s appropriate, and what’s not, for regulation,” which was why the drafted THC regulation request bill from WSLCB had “a cutoff similar to alcohol” for regulators to measure what products would be permitted. Nordhorn acknowledged studies staff had seen “talking about the lowest observable adverse effect levels, and the no observable adverse effect levels of THC” and felt their draft bill “fits right in there very nicely” (audio - 2m, WSLCB video, TVW video).

Information Set