WSLCB - Executive Management Team
(September 16, 2020) - Marijuana Odor Task Force

Board Chair Jane Rushford asked about the status of the legislatively mandated task force on cannabis odor which had received scant updates from WSLCB staff since it was created.

  • The Washington State Task Force on Marijuana Odor was created through a $30,000 budget proviso to WSLCB in the 2020 supplemental budget. Based on legislation which failed to advance on its own merits, the task force was charged with reviewing “The available and most appropriate ways or methods to mitigate, mask, conceal, or otherwise address marijuana odors and emissions and the potentially harmful impact of marijuana odors and emissions on people who live, work, or are located in close proximity to a marijuana production or processing facility, including but not limited to: (a) Filtering systems; (b) natural odor masking mechanisms or odor concealing mechanisms; (c) zoning and land use controls and regulations; and (d) changes to state laws and regulations including, but not limited to, laws and regulations related to nuisance and public health.”
  • The seven task force members included representatives of state agencies and “A representative from the recreational marijuana community or a marijuana producer, processor, or retailer.” No representation was offered to the regional clean air agencies.
  • As legislation, the task force was coldly received by Board Member Russ Hauge on January 29th. The budget proviso’s identical wording then raised concerns from other agency staff during a March 3rd board caucus.
    • Hauge called the concept “a terrible thicket” for the agency to wade into given the established air quality entities in the state were “laid out in some mysterious fashion” with members that weren’t accountable to other political entities like city or county governments. He found the fact that the task force wouldn’t address hemp odors to be “wacky.”
    • Director of Legislative Relations Chris Thompson pointed out that odor was “one of the most frequent complaints" fielded by the agency, although "there is absolutely nothing that we do with those complaints" as there weren’t “laws or rules under our purview” to limit or control smells. He suggested that “there is a role” for regional air quality agencies while acknowledging the cannabis industry had not had "uniformly positive" interactions with them.
    • Board Chair Jane Rushford felt WSLCB was “not a science agency" and that the task force’s mandate may fall “outside of our regulatory domain.”
    • Director Rick Garza said smells were a problem that WSLCB had encountered for five years. He believed it was more suited to regional clean air authorities as "we don't have any expertise around this.” He shook his head, “as usual things get sent to us because it has the word ‘cannabis’ in it."
    • Thompson noted that WSLCB would "see what we can get" in the way of an outside consultant with the $30,000 provided in the budget.
  • Since the budget was adopted, very little had been publicly said about the Marijuana Odor Task Force in WSLCB meetings.
    • On April 28th, Hauge expected the task force would be a “substantial burden on the agency” due to staffing and the required participation of a representative from the WSLCB. He volunteered to serve as he’d done “substantial work on odor issues under the theory of public nuisance” as an attorney (audio - 2m).
    • On June 2nd, Hauge made a small mention of the task force, saying he continued to work with Thompson to organize it (audio < 1m).
    • On July 8th during public comments, Cannabis Observer founder Gregory Foster asked the agency to make the meetings of the task force public - or at least record and publish the webinars. He wished the agency “good luck on such a curious subject” (audio - 5m, written comments).
    • On August 4th, Rushford anticipated the task force would initially convene in “mid-to-late September” (audio - 3m).
  • On August 10th, the WSLCB published a request for proposal (RFP) No. K1434 and a draft contract to find a vendor “capable of conducting odors and emissions detection and research services to research and report on the odors and emissions of legalized marijuana and licensed marijuana businesses.” The vendor would be expected “to research and report on the availability and appropriateness of addressing marijuana odors and emissions, and whether there are potentially harmful impacts of marijuana odors and emissions on people who live, work, or are located in close proximity to marijuana production or processing facilities.”
  • On August 21st, the WSLCB posted responses to questions received from potential vendor applicants in Washington’s Electronic Business Solution (WEBS), a procurement portal for state and local public entities. Potential respondents had many questions seeking clarification about the RFP’s focus on "the potentially harmful impacts of marijuana odors” as well as many questions about the measurement of cannabis odors and the absence of “minimum performance benchmarks or referenced standards for odor identification or testing.”
  • Cannabis Observer called attention to the RFP in the August 24th Week Ahead. In a subsequent public records request, we learned at least four companies submitted proposals to WSLCB (InfoSet):
  • At the conclusion of his legislative update to the EMT, Rushford directly asked Thompson about the status of the Marijuana Odor Task Force which he had neglected to mention (audio - 3m)
    • Thompson admitted the agency had “tried to hire a consultant to give us some background and some scientific information about odor, about mitigation technologies and strategies, about policy practices in any other jurisdictions.” But he explained that after the RFP and responses to questions from potential vendors, “we got no responsive bids within our budget” which was $25,000 of the $30,000 provided by lawmakers. He said it was possible WSLCB would “try again to get some information from the consulting community,” but overall the RFP “didn’t work out for us.”
      • Bids varied by company. Among the four companies whose proposals Cannabis Observer received, RWDI offered the lowest bid quoting a total cost of $60,000, while TerraGraphics asked for $263,000 to fulfill the RFP’s statement of work.
    • Thompson noted that he’d been speaking to staff at the governor’s office, as Governor Jay Inslee was responsible for appointing the seven task force members - appointments Inslee “has the case of a number of those positions” including Hauge. However, “the actual task force has not fully been appointed, as far as I know.” He indicated that Inslee’s staff had been busy “with priorities that are really crucial” and speculated that they’d been unable to “finish vetting the potential industry member appointees to that task force.” Thompson reported that WSLCB had “tried to assist” by offering recommendations to the governor’s office but that he hadn’t “seen final action on that yet.”

Information Set