WSLCB - Executive Management Team
(June 22, 2022) - Summary

CANNRA Stakeholder Meeting - Registration Sign

WSLCB leaders heard about national and regional conferences staff had participated in along with updates on media requests, traceability, and a “strategic plan” for social equity communications.

Here are some observations from the Wednesday June 22nd Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) Executive Management Team meeting.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • Director of Policy and External Affairs Justin Nordhorn talked about staff involvement in two Cannabis Regulators Association (CANNRA) meetings in Seattle the preceding week and a regional trade association conference as well as legislative and equity task force meetings (audio - 8m, WSLCB Video, TVW video).
    • Nordhorn went over "a lot of listening" conducted at external engagements, starting by mentioning deliberative dialogues on cannabinoids and “the concept of impairing” products, the most recent of which was hosted the preceding day on June 21st. He explained that agency officials wouldn’t hold further dialogues on that subject and were assessing what they’d heard from panelists and the public. 
    • Reflecting on the CANNRA Stakeholder Conference on June 6th and 7th, Nordhorn referred to the “national attendance” and how regulators from across America heard about “approaches and impacts from either the federal government or some of the other industry folks.” Topics at the event which interested him were “Achieving Social and Economic Equity in the Industry: Where are we now and where do we” as panelists offered “a good national perspective from a variety of states” which was informing social equity work at WSLCB.
      • The other panel noted by Nordhorn was “Standards in Cannabis Regulation: Updates on efforts to establish common standards, challenges to the work, and ways state and federal officials can help,” which covered “weights and measures, and all of those types of things.” He appreciated learning the approach of panelists representing organizations which established national standards, feeling it was “something the industry will be able to consider as we move forward,” particularly “around lab issues."
    • After the stakeholder conference, there was also a two day CANNRA “member states” meeting where officials provided updates from their jurisdictions. Nordhorn said “new states are always seeking ‘how is this set up’” and other “lessons learned” from states pioneering cannabis policy. In addition to networking opportunities “across the United States,” there were subcommittee reports presented.
    • Turning to the Washington CannaBusiness Association (WACA) Spring Meeting on June 15th where he’d represented the Enforcement and Education division during a group breakout session, Nordhorn felt the event was “an opportunity to connect with variety of people, answer questions…increase a little transparency, try to build some trust.” Concerns they heard from participants informed how staff would “think about things moving forward,” he commented, feeling it helped “create a learning environment” where officials could “have [stakeholder] perspectives in mind.”
    • Nordhorn indicated Policy and Rules Manager Kathy Hoffman was helping set up meetings “with legislative staff” so regulators could do more active “information sharing” on request legislation agency leaders might put forward in 2023. Saying the 2022 legislative session was “fast and furious,” his hope was that they could keep lawmakers and stakeholders “on the same page as we continue to develop these.” Since the deliberative dialogues, staff were still evaluating cannabinoid regulation, including a rulemaking project; Nordhorn expected a substantive update within “several weeks.”
    • Nordhorn said he’d become a member of the Washington State Legislative Task Force on Social Equity in Cannabis (WA SECTF) Regulation of Cannabis Production Work Group which hosted an "interesting conversation" the previous day on the possible equity “aspect of shifting some of the agricultural oversight from the LCB into Department of Agriculture” (WSDA). He provided background to the group while "trying to be neutral" on something he knew to be “a fairly complex issue and there's really not an easy solution." With “only two meetings scheduled,” Nordhorn assured agency leaders he’d follow up as their recommendations progressed.
      • Postman’s memory as the former Director of Communications and then Chief of Staff for Governor Jay Inslee was that WSDA leadership weren’t “really lookin’ to get into the cannabis business, has that changed?” (audio - 2m, WSLCB Video, TVW video)
        • When Initiative 502 passed in 2012, Nordhorn’s impression had been that WSLCB became the leading agency because the initiative “assigned any role or responsibility” to them. Moreover, many agency leaders had concerns over losing federal money due to regulating cannabis, he added. Since implementation of legalization, he felt WSDA staff had become more “proactive” in working with WSLCB representatives. However, “if you stand up a new program,” Nordhorn expected it would be “potentially really expensive” to staff and equip WSDA effectively, which he imagined could impact “licensing fees.”
    • Director Rick Garza commented on the amount of staff time and effort that had gone into their CANNRA work as event hosts, committee leaders, and members (audio - 4m, WSLCB Video, TVW video). 
      • Garza agreed with Nordhorn’s observation about missing standards in the cannabis sector, blamed “the federal prohibition” on cannabis, and was similarly impressed with the standardization panel at the CANNRA event. Due to a lack of research and science on cannabis, he believed “a hodgepodge of states” were making standards that lacked uniformity.
      • “We had 33 states present in Olympia for those two days” of the member meeting, mentioned Garza, remarking that Nordhorn and others had contributed to the CANNRA subcommittee work. He said there was “an opportunity to look at what these other states are doing and try to find a best practice.”
      • Earlier during the meeting, the Enforcement and Education presentation included a slide that noted "CANNRA attendance and hosting Guam" among Director Chandra Brady’s “notable partnerships.”
  • A briefing from Director of Communications Brian Smith covered media mentions around retail security, an upcoming traceability reporting system update, and the departure of a key staffer from WSLCB (audio - 5m, WSLCB Video, TVW video).
    • Smith relayed that media inquiries “really slowed down in the last month” following intense interest in a rash of cannabis retail robberies in early 2022. Though he wasn’t entirely sure the reason for the declining interest, staff were still responding to “a number of questions” from an unnamed reporter on "training, guns, and things like that" while facilitating the provision of data from the Enforcement division for their upcoming article.
    • Emphasizing his role as a Cannabis Central Reporting System (CCRS) Steering Committee member, Smith talked about how phase II of system implementation was progressing, claiming this stage was about “fulfilling some of the requests that came in initially from the industry.” He anticipated sending an announcement to licensees and stakeholders in the coming “weeks” to explain “some changes that are going to be ahead.” He acknowledged former Cannabis Examiner Manager Kendra Hodgson had been “the face of that project” and very knowledgeable on “our systems and lab integration and work group integrators.” Replacing her institutional knowledge in those areas would be another challenge Smith expected CCRS phase II would have to overcome.
    • Smith said there’d be more communications from WSLCB “that will be related to social equity” as agency leaders developed a “strategic plan” for outreach in advance of an equity retail licensing window.
  • Enforcement and Education Director Chandra Brady briefed on cannabis compliance checks, the examiners team, and licensee safety training during her enforcement update (audio - 5m, WSLCB Video, TVW video).
    • Check out Brady’s last enforcement update from May 11th.
    • Looking at checks on cannabis retail sales to minors, Brady indicated licensees were at 95% compliance “with 21 checks in the month of May.” Her presentation also highlighted “Cannabis Specific" enforcement training in May 2022, as she observed “staying current with the information and training we’re providing our officers is an important part of being contributors to this industry.”
    • Cannabis Examiners in her division were still dealing with the transition to  CCRS, but had been able to begin undertaking “reporting analysis” evaluating how data submitted by licensees compared to what officers were “actually seeing out in the field.”
    • Brady said WSLCB Enforcement and Education staff had provided six “regional public safety training events” and eight “on-site security assessments have been completed…and there are more scheduled” for cannabis retailers.
    • Postman asked how training and security assessments were “being received.” Brady responded the events had been “very well used at the beginning” but participation had begun to “taper off.” She knew some businesses were using their security assessments, but also felt “things have clearly changed for now out in the field.” She noted the virtual trainings were on “Wednesdays at 11 o’clock” and businesses could register online. They were also free to request a free on-site security assessment, she added (audio - 2m, WSLCB video, TVW video).

Information Set