A substantial legislative update from Chris Thompson on the WSLCB's plans for the upcoming session.
Here are some observations from the January 2nd WSLCB Executive Management Team meeting.
My top 3 takeaways:
- Director of Legislative Relations Chris Thompson provided a legislative update describing the agency’s request legislation and legislative committee assignments for the 2019 session (audio – 12m).
- Agency request legislation for an alcohol promoter permit; budtender training; enforcement uniformity; and a Systems Modernization Project (SMP) account extension have all been reviewed and approved by the Governor’s office.
- The last piece of request legislation, transfer of testing lab accreditation authority to the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE), has been delayed to resolve “drastic” changes to the bill wanted by the DOE.
- Thompson said he is working to identify sponsors for the agency’s request bills: “I have some members who have expressed some interest.”
- Thompson mentioned the Governor’s office has released a budget which includes “three million dollars, biennial funding, for expansion of enforcement and licensing.”
- The Democratic and Republican caucuses have voted to recommend vastly different representation on legislative committees dealing with cannabis bills. Each caucus’s recommendations are expected to be formally adopted by the House and Senate when the session is convened on January 14th. Thompson noted changes were unexpected but possible.
- In the House, the Commerce and Gaming Committee will be chaired by Democratic Representative Derek Stanford. Representative Kristine Reeves will be Vice Chair. Freshman Representative Melanie Morgan will join the committee. Representatives Brian Blake, Steve Kirby, and Shelley Kloba are returning members rounding out the Democrats’ majority.
- For Republicans, Representative Drew MacEwen will be the Ranking Minority member and freshman Representative Kelly Chambers will be the Assistant Ranking Member. Returning minority members are Representatives Jesse Young, Brendan Vick, and Bill Jenkin.
- The Senate Labor and Commerce Committee is slimming down, with each caucus sending one less member, for a total of four Democrats and three Republicans. Senate President Pro Tem Karen Keiser remains as chair, the only returning leader to either cannabis committee. Senator Steve Conway will be Vice Chair, with Senators Lisa Wellman and Rebecca Saldaña the other majority members.
- Republican Senator Curtis King will be the Ranking Minority member accompanied by Senators John Braun and Maureen Walsh.
- Senator Keiser planned to meet with Director Rick Garza to work with him on legislation giving limited alcohol rulemaking authority over to the agency to reduce the number of alcohol bills the Senate needs to consider.
- Thompson reported on his attempts to coordinate meetings with local legislators during the agency’s visit to eastern Washington. Senator Billig, the new Senate Majority leader, was “tied up.” Senator Padden (WA-4) was “likely to have concerns he wants to express about cannabis shops licensed in Otis Orchards” near the Idaho border.
- Thompson said the WSLCB’s “internal legislative team” will meet three times per week (MWF) from 9-10am “to discuss all legislative matters we need to deal with at the agency leadership level…look at the bills that are out there, discuss agency-wide and stakeholder impacts, discuss concerns and take positions if we decide to do that at those meetings.”
- Here are two earlier WSLCB legislative updates regarding the agency’s 2019 session agency request legislation:
- Department heads updated agency leadership on a variety of cannabis topics.
- Enforcement Chief Justin Nordhorn confirmed distribution of a planned letter to retailers regarding medically compliant products and licensee responsibility to provide testing results. Separately, Enforcement has identified “gaps in the rules” on cannabis retesting. Nordhorn described two “not dramatically different” uses of terminology and indicated staff may request rulemaking to implement changes (audio – 2m).
- Communications Director Brian Smith was preparing briefing materials for Chair Rushford and Director Garza’s podcast with The Spokesman Review and responding to questions from the Cannabis Alliance about effective dates of recent packaging and labeling rule changes (audio – 2m).
- Director of Licensing and Regulation Becky Smith noted complaints against a cannabis producer moving to Lopez Island, leading to an interesting discussion about licensee transportation of cannabis on ferries in international waters (audio – 4m).
- Leadership discussed their planned activities for the coming week.
- Director Rick Garza was invited to speak on a panel at The Cannabis Alliance Washington State Cannabis Summit in SeaTac on Friday January 4th. Other WSLCB attendees included Board Chair Jane Rushford, Board Member Ollie Garrett, cannabis Policy and Rules Coordinator Kathy Hoffman, and Researcher Trecia Ehrlich (audio – 1m).
- The agency continues to develop its itinerary for the visit to eastern Washington and board meeting at Spokane City Hall on January 9th (audio – 2m, audio – 3m). The itinerary was also discussed earlier in the day at the January 2nd special board caucus.