WTSC - Commission Meeting
(July 15, 2021) - CANNRA Overview

WTSC - 2020 Annual Report - Cannabis Impaired Driving

WSLCB Director Rick Garza shared new details about the background, leadership, and advocacy of CANNRA as he encouraged traffic safety officials to affiliate with the organization.

Here are some observations from the Thursday July 15th Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) Commission Meeting.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) Director Rick Garza explained the short history of the Cannabis Regulators Association (CANNRA) and discussed the composition of the organization with Commissioners.
    • Leadership at WSLCB had discussed the formation and functions of CANNRA on several occasions:
    • In his overview for WTSC commissioners, Garza described how CANNRA began as the Regulators Roundtable years earlier with officials from Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Alaska. CANNRA was formally established in 2020 and was initially comprised of 17 adult use and 11 medical cannabis states, he said, with goals to (audio - 3m, presentation):
      • “Identify/develop best practices”
      • “Model policies for public health and safety”
        • The presentation stated the organization would “Create model policies for public health and safety.”
      • “Promote regulatory certainty for industry partners”
      • “Ensure that any changes to the federal cannabis policy” were coordinated with state-level regulations
    • Garza said that after establishing the Regulators Roundtable, officials from other states “moving toward medical or adult-use” cannabis reform consulted with members, making it “obvious to us that we needed to form an association” devoted to “all regulators of cannabis.” He claimed that CANNRA was “non-political” because “we’re neutral on legalization,” and the 501(c)(4) nonprofit advocacy organization merely intended to “provide government jurisdictions with information to help them make informed decisions.”
    • Garza mentioned that CANNRA leaders had “affiliated with the Council of State Governments (CSG)” earlier in the year, adding that state Senator Sam Hunt was serving as National Chair for CSG and had communicated that the association of state legislators was “looking for cannabis regulators to affiliate with them.”
    • Speaking to the membership of CANNRA, Garza told commissioners it was “limited to cannabis regulators and representatives from relevant government agencies like your own. Membership is not available to the cannabis industry participants or advocacy organizations.” Sharing a map of CANNRA membership, Garza predicted that Missouri regulators would soon join CANNRA as he believed that state “just passed a medical cannabis law in the last few weeks, so they’ll be added“ (audio - 1m). 
    • Garza talked about the leadership of CANNRA besides himself.
  • Garza then talked about special committees set up by CANNRA members which reflect the policymaking priorities of the organization’s leadership and members (audio - 3m).
    • “Important areas of cannabis policy” were outlined in a February 18th letter from CANNRA President Norman Birenbaum to the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, the House Minority Leader, and the Majority and Minority leaders of the U.S. Senate.
    • Garza relayed that WSLCB Public Health Education Liaison Sara Cooley Broschart had contacted “seven state agencies to let them know” about a June meeting of CANNRA. In addition to WTSC, she reached out to:
    • WTSC was one of four of the agencies that sent representatives to attend the June meeting, Garza reported, saying participants heard from all the special committees at that time. Part of his message was to inform commissioners that “any of the agencies in state government can participate in CANNRA.”
    • The following Special Committees were identified in the presentation:
      • Social and Economic Equity
      • Lab Testing and Product Safety
        • WSLCB staff provided Garza with talking points to share in advance of the agency’s June 23rd engagement with members of the Washington CannaBusiness Association (WACA). The document described likely agency request legislation pertaining to the on-going transfer of “authority for accreditation of cannabis testing labs from LCB to the Department of Ecology” which would likely include “significant new funding for the agencies involved in this work.”
        • Learn what Washington officials and private lab representatives have been doing on the Cannabis Science Task Force (CSTF) administered by Ecology.
      • Public Education
      • Public Health and Data Monitoring
        • Broschart co-chaired the “public health and data monitoring committee with Gillian Schauer,” said Garza.
      • Packaging, Labeling, and Advertising
      • Energy and Environmental Policy
      • Medical Use and Research
      • Cannabinoid Hemp
        • Synthesis of cannabinoids from cannabidiol (CBD) extracted from hemp biomass for use in legal cannabis items had been a contentious topic that elicited strong reactions from Washington licensees and regulators.
        • Washington state does not maintain a program dedicated to hemp cannabinoids. In New York, officials adopted a 2021 law that placed cannabinoid hemp processing and retail authority with the New York State Department of Health.
      • Licensing, Inspections, and Compliance
        • According to Garza, WSLCB Public Affairs and Outreach Director Justin Nordhorn was one of the co-chairs of this special committee.
      • Banking, Finance, Insurance
      • Market Structure and Taxation
      • Impaired Driving and Workplace Safety
        • Garza remarked that WTSC officials would likely be interested in the work of the “Impaired Driving and Workplace Safety” committee, but suggested the topics might be split into dedicated committees. He said that Chuck DeWeese, Assistant Commissioner for the New York Governor's Traffic Safety Committee was a co-chair “along with Joseph Thomas, the manager of the [Michigan] Marijuana Regulatory Agency.”
      • Federal Policy
      • Interstate Coordination
        • In 2019, Oregon lawmakers prepared for interstate cannabis commerce via SB 582, contingent upon a change in the federal status of cannabis or issuance of an authorizing memorandum. Alliance for Sensible Markets, an Oregon trade group, advocates for “calling on governors of newly legal and legalizing states to reach out to Oregon Governor Kate Brown, who signed historic interstate commerce legislation in 2019, to discuss an interstate compact.”
      • A Municipal and County Regulation and Coordination committee was mentioned in the original announcement from the organization but was absent from the WTSC presentation.
        • WSLCB officials had engaged in outreach to jurisdictions with cannabis zoning restrictions earlier in the year to find out whether local leaders were amenable to reforms to further cannabis retail equity. 
  • Garza acknowledged the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), federal draft legislation to legalize cannabis released the day before, speaking to its relationship to federal engagement by CANNRA representatives (audio - 2m).
    • Garza---who had previously discussed the CAOA with WSLCB leadership---said he’d been contacted by staff for Senator Patty Murray ahead of the release of the draft legislation. He commented that Murray's office was interested in the role for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
      • Garza previously indicated that FDA staff would meet with CANNRA representatives the following week.
    • He then offered the “goals and missions” for CANNRA member engagement with federal counterparts. In the event of “legalization of cannabis federally,” the organization aimed to ensure that there wouldn’t be “conflict” with established state laws. Garza said CANNRA members would be “looking closely” at CAOA and had coordinated for several months with staff for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and FDA in meetings addressing “questions that the agencies have.”
    • Garza told the group the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) at the FDA had partnered with WSLCB officials “for years” to regulate alcohol manufacturing and distribution within Washington. He speculated that TTB officials might one day “provide a permit, as they do for alcohol, to manufacturers” of legal cannabis.

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