Public records reveal a flurry of WSLCB activity on MIEs at the end of August, coincident with the departure of the cannabis rules coordinator.
On October 3rd, staff at the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) publicly announced a re-evaluation of existing and new rules regarding the approval of marijuana infused edible (MIE) products and labels (video, presentation). For context, see Cannabis Observer’s initial edibles update and the trade association coalition proposal presented at the October 30 Board Caucus.
Cannabis Observer received additional public records in response to our request intended to identify concerns which precipitated WSLCB’s action. The records responsive to our request, some of which were redacted in part or completely, describe a flurry of activity at the end of August.
Here are three new takeaways:
- We obtained a WSLCB draft of criteria for defining gummy candy (draft document, email thread).
- This document is an attachment to an email thread dated Thursday August 23, 2018 (41 days before the October 3rd announcement). The conversation began in the late morning and carried on into the night.
- The email thread is between Joanna Eide (former cannabis Policy and Rules Coordinator) and the presenters of WSLCB’s October 3rd announcement, Nicola Reid and Susan Harrell (respectively Compliance and Policy Manager, Licensing; and Licensing Program Specialist, Label Approval).
- Joanna Eide somewhat unexpectedly left the WSLCB at the end of August, eight days after a “super productive meeting” that occurred on the morning of the 23rd at the end of the first week of her formal two-week notice.
- The draft document was created: “…to address concerns about approved products raised by the Board, industry, other stakeholders, and the public…”
- “…and to promote consistency in application of the prohibition on gummy candies.” That prohibition is defined in Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 314-55-077(7):
- A marijuana processor is limited in the types of food or drinks they may infuse with marijuana. Marijuana-infused products that require cooking or baking by the consumer are prohibited. Marijuana-infused products that are especially appealing to children are prohibited. Marijuana-infused edible products such as, but not limited to, gummy candies, lollipops, cotton candy, or brightly colored products, are prohibited.
- At the very end of the draft document, its author(s) state: “Similar criteria may be developed for other products that may be of concern on the market, including other candies, chews (whether containing fruit or not), taffies, fruit caramels, or caramels in general.”
- In the email thread, Joanna Eide reiterates the document’s final suggestion: “As we discussed, it is a good start, but won’t be the end of the story and will be something that we can build on and use for creating criteria for other products (see note at end of document).”
- The same August 23rd email thread also includes a 20-slide draft presentation titled “Marijuana Infused Edibles: Gummy and Fruit Chew Candies”.
- Five days later, the draft slidedeck had been substantially changed, and expanded to 23 slides. Now subtitled “Gummy candy, fruit chews and hard candy”, the final slide describes an Action Plan.
- On August 27, Harrell requested a 30-minute meeting with WSLCB Director Rick Garza “…about how the LCB will be moving forward with approvals on marijuana infused edible candy” to be scheduled during the last week of August. The version of the slidedeck containing the “Action Plan” slide is attached to an August 28th email from Susan Harrell to Nicola Reid asking for her to review “…if you have time before tomorrow’s meeting” (August 29).
- We have partial visibility into several interwoven email threads between Nicola Reid, Susan Harrell, and Assistant Attorney General Penny Allen at the end of August (email).
- Late on the morning of Wednesday August 29, Harrell sought undisclosed legal advice from Allen.
- Reid appears to have escalated Harrell’s request on Friday morning August 31, eliciting Allen’s reply from a personal email account:
- Yes. I think you have authority to prohibit any product you deem especially appealing to children. “Brightly colored” may be a bit vague but I think if you had some guidance on what it meant that would be workable. You may also want to consider banning candy look a likes like individual wrapped candies that packaging looks star bursts or Hersey bars.[sic]
- In framing her escalated request, Reid stated, “We meet about the issue of candy this morning [August 31] at 10:30am.” August 31 would have been Eide’s last day at WSLCB.
Here is what happens next:
- This morning, the WSLCB Board will hear and almost certainly approve a 6-month extension of the Board Interim Policy establishing the May 2018 Packaging and Labeling Rules effective date to June 1, 2019.
- By November 12, the WSLCB intends to respond to the trade association coalition proposal presented at the October 30 Board Caucus.