No one showed up to testify at the public hearing about the WSLCB’s substantial expansion of licensing and enforcement authority over non-THC vapor product licensees.
Here are some observations from the Tuesday November 26th Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) Special Board Meeting.
My top 3 takeaways:
- A quiet hearing on vapor product rulemaking unrelated to the state’s flavor and vitamin E acetate bans received no public comments.
- Board Chair Jane Rushford introduced the subject with an amendment to the agenda, clarifying that “cannabis related rulemaking” wasn’t reflective of the purpose of the proposed vapor product rules. “That was an oversight on our part,” she explained (audio - 2m, video).
- Rushford then offered a survey of WSLCB’s recent vapor efforts saying that “concern around the use of vapor products has significantly increased in the last several months.” The concern wasn’t just limited to the “composition and content of the concentrates used in vapor products and the product delivery system.”
- Rushford acknowledged Executive Order 19-03, which was signed by Governor Jay Inslee on September 27th, along with the State Board of Health (SBOH)’s emergency rules. The SBOH banned flavored vapor items and all vapor products found to contain vitamin E acetate on October 9th and November 18th, respectively.
- WSLCB passed other interim and emergency rules in response to the vaping-associated lung injury scare. See details at the agency's vapor products web page.
- Rushford emphasized the recent rules and bans existed in WAC 246-80 and there was a “distinction between the various rules” that each agency had. She concluded by saying that the public hearing “solely concerns” WAC 314-35 on vapor “licensing and enforcement” and directed anyone with comments on the flavor ban to contact the Department of Health (DOH) instead.
- WSLCB Policy and Rules Coordinator Kathy Hoffman introduced the public hearing by describing how the initially proposed rule change was opened in January before expiring in May. The agency re-filed the CR-101 in June to also enact two bills, HB 1873 on nicotine vapor product taxation and HB 1074, the “Tobacco 21” bill increasing the minimum age for purchase of tobacco and nicotine vapor products. In addition, the rule project included “clarifying and technical changes” (audio - 7m, video).
- The Board initially voted to advance the proposed rules to their current CR-102 stage on October 2nd (WSR 19-21-102). However, they passed an amended timeline on October 16th owing to a “need to reschedule the hearing date.”
- Hoffman listed the extensive changes to vapor product requirements for age of sale, licensing, insurance, packaging and labeling, seizure, recordkeeping, license suspension and penalties, amongst other changes. She said that “no comments were received on this project” before echoing Rushford’s comments about increased public concern around vaporization generally and the ensuing regulatory actions which WSLCB had taken. Near the conclusion of her remarks, Hoffman noted receipt of one comment which “spoke to a minor rule suggestion and a minor change.”
- Hoffman’s only explicit mentions of cannabis in relation to the vapor products rulemaking project came when discussing seizure and penalty structures for vapor products (new section WAC 314-35-055). She said the rule changes established “the ability of the Board to seize both cannabinoid vapor products and vapor products under specific circumstances.” Hoffman added the change “aligns with the current board penalty reform rule work that we’re doing under the [Cannabis Penalties] rules.”
- Hoffman next mentioned the small business economic impact statement (SBEIS) created for the project that “addresses the proposed requirement that licensees carry commercial general liability insurance.” She summarized by saying that the proposed rules supported “the overarching agency goal of ensuring the highest level of public safety.”
- No one signed in to speak on the proposed rules.
- WSLCB Policy and Rules Coordinator Kathy Hoffman provided a cannabis rulemaking update and new details on the agency’s future rulemaking plans.
- Hoffman shared a brief rulemaking update at the November 19th board caucus. Her last rulemaking update was on November 13th.
- Cannabis Penalties (WSR 18-22-099, audio - <1m, video). Hoffman explained that the public hearing on proposed penalty reforms was scheduled for January 8th and anticipated presenting a CR-103 describing final rules by the “end of January.” She stated no public feedback had been received since a listen and learn forum the agency held on October 31st.
- Voluntary Compliance Program (WSR 19-15-074, audio - 1m, video). Part of the implementation of SB 5318, Hoffman said staff was still “curating” comments from a stakeholder meeting the agency hosted on November 12th. She added the agency was “sketching out what that compliance program will look like.”
- True Party of Interest (TPI, WSR 18-22-054, audio - 1m, video). Hoffman told the Board a stakeholder meeting was planned for December 18th and that she expected to put a proposal before them “by mid-January.” She added that the agency was anticipating conducting “significant analysis” in conjunction with the rule’s SBEIS to determine if the rule held “any significant financial impact on the industry.”
- Quality Assurance (QA) Testing and Product Requirements (WSR 18-17-041, audio - 1m, video). Hoffman requested order typing service from the Office of the Code Reviser (OCR) to produce a rule draft. The project would also require a SBEIS to reflect “all the activity that occurred with that project to this point.” Hoffman predicted a CR-102 containing proposed rules would be presented to the Board on either December 18th or January 8th.
- Packaging and Labeling (PAL, WSR 19-12-029, audio - 1m, video). Hoffman said the public hearing on PAL conceptual draft rules was set for December 11th. She noted the agency had received a pair of “non-substantive” comments with suggestions on aligning language and a newly-received comment from “our prevention community.”
- Rulemaking Forecast (audio - 1m, video).
- Hoffman promised a CR-101 regarding “Tier 1 expansion” was coming “before the end of the year” in order to bolster struggling small growers. The process would involve withdrawing the Cannabis Production and Canopy rulemaking project (WSR 18-01-058).
- Hoffman committed that WSLCB would “open up our advertising rules for additional consideration,” a subject Enforcement Chief Justin Nordhorn had raised in August.
- In addition, Hoffman said the agency would address transportation concerns which had recently been raised.
- Board Chair Jane Rushford announced changes to the agency’s public comment policy that will go into effect next year (audio - 1m, video).
- Rushford told those present that WSLCB would be “changing the timeframe in the new year” to limit citizen comments down from four minutes to three minutes each. “That seems to be adequate for what we hear from our stakeholders and others,” she elaborated before adding, “it’s a change that really is accommodating the requirements that have been demonstrated here for this portion of the agenda.”
- No one signed in to speak during general public comment.