WSLCB - Executive Management Team
(October 13, 2021) - Legislative Affairs Update

WA Legislature - Parchment Bills - ICT - Psychotropic Compounds

Director of Legislative Relations Chris Thompson went over the status of two potential agency request bills (lab standards, cannabinoid regulation) and an upcoming briefing to lawmakers.

Here are some observations from the Wednesday October 13th Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) Executive Management Team (EMT) meeting.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • Thompson went over the status of request legislation to establish an interagency coordination team (ICT) at the recommendation of the Cannabis Science Task Force Steering Committee.
    • The concept of the ICT, which would handle lab standards, was reviewed in a March 23rd presentation on implementation of task force recommendations from Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) Environmental Assessment Program Manager Jennifer Carlson, the task force policy coordinator. She stated the ICT would provide for:
      • Lack of federal oversight 
      • Technical assistance for labs 
      • Essential structure for performance based methods for pesticide testing 
    • The ICT would include representatives from WSLCB, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), and the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). The ICT would define lab accreditation standards to serve as the “client” of the DOE, which would remain responsible for implementing a lab accreditation program based on rules developed by the ICT and encoded by WSDA policy staff.
    • The steering committee discussed the proposed bill on June 11th and again on August 5th, with staff for the respective agencies determining WSLCB would be the appropriate lead agency. The task force met most recently on October 1st.
    • The WSLCB board talked about the ICT request bill on June 9th and on September 8th, when Thompson told the board he anticipated participating agencies would request funding for “a couple, three or so, [full-time equivalent] FTE at each of the agencies, particularly in scientific disciplines.” According to the supplemental budget requests, the three agencies have asked for funds for almost 13 FTEs for the ICT.
    • During the EMT, Thompson described the ICT legislation as “jointly requested by LCB and the state Department of Agriculture” while stating that DOE and DOH were “partners in this larger effort which is to...upgrade the system for testing labs in the state for the cannabis industry.” He said a package with the bill draft had been submitted describing the transfer of authority along with the budget request for additional staff (“and thus, funding”) needed to implement the ICT (audio - 3m, video). 
      • The ICT would be a “cooperative” venture of WSDA, DOH, and WSLCB representatives, Thompson said, “to develop the substance of the testing lab requirements that we need.” WSDA officials would lead the team. As DOE staff “had some concerns about the initial draft,” Thompson commented that officials of the participating agencies had agreed to a revised draft. He expected DOE leaders to support the new draft along with the other agencies in the 2022 legislative session.
      • Thompson added that DOE staff “may want some additional statutory changes down the line,” likely alluding to request legislation drafted by DOE staff which proposed revisions to the timeline for the implementation of a new lab accreditation program.
  • The second request bill on regulation of “psychotropic compounds” in cannabis, conceived by WSLCB staff in response to concerns about synthesized cannabinoids in the legal cannabis market and other markets, had elicited significant feedback from stakeholders.
    • Distinctions between naturally occurring, synthesized, and artificial cannabinoids had been explored at length during two deliberative dialogues hosted by WSLCB staff on June 3rd and July 20th. Board members voted to refile a cannabinoid rulemaking project on July 7th so that its scope could be expanded in what staff would later describe as a “stopgap measure” on the issue.
    • On September 1st, Thompson sent selected stakeholders the draft bill “extending regulatory authority over cannabinoids of a psychotropic and impairing nature and providing for enhanced product safety and consumer information disclosure about marijuana products.” On September 7th, he sent another email, extending the feedback period. A revised draft was made available for a webinar dedicated to the request bill convened by agency officials on September 27th.
    • Thompson told the EMT that the bill would “authorize the state and the LCB to regulate cannabinoids that we believe need to be regulated,” as well as position regulators to “be ready with the necessary tools as new trends emerge in the industry” (audio - 3m, video).
      • This "is very difficult work; it's very technical; it's very complex" and had "very strong interests involved,” Thompson stated. He said WSLCB staff had “connected with more than 250” individuals, and “heard directly to some degree from at least 40-45” stakeholders and “the count is going up by the day.” Thompson described having met with representatives for the Cannabis Alliance and the Industrial Hemp Association of Washington (IHEMPAWA). He anticipated hearing from the Washington CannaBusiness Association (WACA) “and the public health association, and other stakeholders."
      • The public input led to “internal discussions” on “putting forward a proposal,” but Thompson reported that staff needed “more time.” The draft request bill was a "very much in-progress, in-flux effort" he stated, but he promised to return to the board with a “specific take” on the best “direction.” Thompson was additionally keeping Washington State Office of the Governor (WA Governor) staff informed as to “how definitively they’re progressing.”

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