The Board denied a petition for rulemaking from a transporter and reacted to federal warnings about correlated health impacts attributed to vaping.
Here are some observations from the Wednesday September 4th Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) Executive Management Team public meeting.
My top 3 takeaways:
- A new petition for rulemaking regarding cannabis transportation rules was received by the agency (audio – 21m).
- Cannabis Observer requested and published two petitions which were brought forward and denied by the Board in August. The last rulemaking update was during the August 21st Board Meeting.
- Cannabis Policy and Rules Coordinator Kathy Hoffman shared a July 9th petition with the Board from Kevin Lynch, CEO of Go Green Enterprises, “requesting an amendment to WAC 314-55-310. He requests this amendment to subsection (6)” to permit “transportation licensees the ability to park vans with cannabis products inside a warehouse-type facility or penned space.” In the petition, Lynch asserted that the agency doesn’t allow licensed transportation companies to park in warehouses or penned areas “so [WSLCB] can have access to review compliance.” Changing the rule would “provide increased safety and security for vans parked overnight.” Lynch recommended editing WAC 314-55-310(6) to include the phrase “that the product can be stored in a secure location.”
- Board Member Russ Hauge expressed some surprise that loaded transportation vehicles would need overnight storage. Hoffman claimed vans were “extensions of the licensed premises” but warehouses or vehicle pens weren’t licensed premises, and therefore “wouldn’t meet the security requirements” mandated in WAC 314-55-083(2) and (3). Further, the agency had to “address the safety of [licensee] employees while transporting and delivering products.” Hoffman said the “chain of security” for cannabis products “would be interrupted” were the rule to change. Hoffman raised the issue with WSLCB’s Enforcement division as well as the Washington State Office of the Attorney General (OAG) who shared her interpretation of current law and rules. For that reason she recommended not moving the petition forward.
- Board Member Ollie Garrett wanted to know how common it was for vans loaded with cannabis product to be parked anywhere overnight. Hoffman replied that if that was occurring, it would be in violation of current transportation rules. Hauge believed any “interim storage facilities” allowed should be expected to meet requirements to be “alarmed, and videoed, just like we do with licensed premises.”
- Hauge didn’t want to validate a transporter’s need for holding onto cannabis beyond the time limit in rule “without a good reason.” Hoffman asserted that allowing alternative vehicle storage arrangements could also compromise the ability of Enforcement officers to inspect or gain access to the vehicle, its manifest, or products contained therein.
- Hauge supported rejecting the petition, but wanted to begin a dialogue with the petitioner because “maybe there’s something we’re missing.” Garrett, Hauge, and Hoffman agreed that they should learn more about if and when overnight stops during cannabis transportation happen. Hauge wanted to engage with the petitioner “without starting the clock on rulemaking” while Hoffman admitted “we really don’t have the capacity” for another rulemaking project.
- Hoffman said that RCW 34.05.330(1)(a)(ii) regarding the right of any person to petition any agency for rule changes enabled the WSLCB to “deny the petition but also allows us to discuss the alternate means by which [the agency] would address the concerns raised.” She suggested denying the petition while stating that “we want to leave this issue open for further exploration.”
- Hauge reiterated that if licensees were having to park for extended periods the agency “needs to provide a way for transporters to hold product in a more secure environment.” Hoffman promised that they could examine that further while denying the petition.
- The Board voted to deny the petition saying WSLCB would “explore alternative means to address the concerns raised by the petitioner.”
- Correlated health impacts attributed to vaping were front and center following a serious warning issued by the Centers for Disease Control (audio – 6m).
- On August 30th, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued an investigation notice stating they were “investigating a multistate outbreak of severe pulmonary disease associated with e-cigarette product (devices, liquids, refill pods, and/or cartridges) use. This investigation is ongoing and has not identified a cause, but all reported cases have a history of using e-cigarette products.” Simultaneously, the CDC Director and Acting FDA Commissioner issued a statement about coordinated federal and state actions which acknowledged “there does not appear to be one product involved in all of the cases, although THC and cannabinoids use has been reported in many cases” while also warning “Anyone who uses e-cigarette products should not buy these products off the street (e.g., e-cigarette products with THC or other cannabinoids).”
- Hauge brought up the subject and associated media event, mentioning ongoing investigations by states including New Mexico and New York whose health agencies called out cannabis vaping in their public statements.
- On August 23rd, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported on the “death of an individual who had recently vaped.” Illinois was scheduled to implement their legislated framework for adult-use cannabis on January 1st, 2020.
- Hauge asked staff what they’d heard about the problem, specifically about the use of “adulterants” in vaping concentrates. Hoffman began by saying “we’d like to see some statistics from our Department of Health” to better understand what was happening in Washington. Hoffman had heard feedback that contaminants were coming from the materials in the vape cartridge rather than being present in concentrates or oils directly. Hoffman noted that WSLCB did not regulate “the cartridge in which that product resides.”
- In April, Michigan’s Bureau of Marijuana Regulation reported finding “Lead Contamination in Vape Cartridges.”
- Hauge was skeptical, saying “this thing we don’t do, regulating what goes into a cartridge, is somehow going to be linked to a ‘public health crisis.’ I think that’s a little bit alarmist.” Nonetheless, Hauge wanted to know more. Hoffman responded that much of the CDC’s concern revolved around flavored tobacco products. Hauge pointed to New York’s statement and an article from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) echoing concerns about cartridge safety in California. Hoffman noted that California was specifically calling out vape cartridges from “unregulated illicit market cannabis products.”
- Hauge expected that the WSLCB would have to address these concerns “in pretty short order” and asked to talk through the situation with Hoffman at the following week’s Board Caucus.
- Board Member Ollie Garrett briefly mentioned a “very positive” meeting at the Department of Commerce in the company of WSLCB Director of Legislative Relations Chris Thompson (audio – 1m).
- As the brief and sparsely attended EMT wrapped up, Garrett said: “Chris and I had a good meeting this morning over at Commerce, and I’ll talk about that more at Caucus…it was very positive.”
- While Garrett made no mention of the subject matter of their meeting, the DOC was recently mentioned as the potential administrator of grants for WSLCB’s social equity program described broadly in concept and more specifically as potential agency request legislation.
- In the interagency agreement between WSLCB and DOC envisioned by Thompson’s team, $100K per year would be appropriated to the WSLCB from cannabis excise taxes collected in the state’s dedicated marijuana account. In turn, those funds would be transferred to the DOC for issuance to social equity grant recipients. The scope of the DOC’s responsibilities beyond management of funds remained to be defined.
- Wednesday September 4th was the deadline for stakeholders to provide feedback to the WSLCB on the potential agency request legislation. Thompson’s team planned to incorporate stakeholder feedback in the agency’s request legislation package for the governor’s office for delivery by Friday September 13th.