Marijuana Infused Edibles Update
(December 19, 2018)

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, packages, and labels (video, presentation).

For context, see Cannabis Observer’s coverage:

This update focuses on the WSLCB’s second issue brief, prevention community influence, and the first webinar on MIE packaging and labeling rules.

Here are three takeaways:

  • The WSLCB’s revised second issue brief was presented at the November 28th Executive Management Team meeting (audio – 42m, transcript).
    • In our last edibles update (Nov 27), we drew attention to the WSLCB statement that “…a final draft [of the issue brief] will be brought before the Board on November 28th to be considered for approval” – yet the board meeting agenda was silent on this topic.
    • At that time, engaged stakeholders had just provided feedback to the WSLCB, so we admitted: “…it could be worthwhile for agency staff and the Board to take more than two working days to incorporate feedback from trade associations – and the public.”
    • As it turned out, WSLCB staffers did present a revised issue brief to the Board on the 28th – during the weekly Executive Management Team (EMT) meeting. EMT meetings and the Board’s weekly caucuses are not broadcast nor recorded by the agency and have no readily accessible documentation of the content of their proceedings. Cannabis Observer was present.
    • During the presentation and discussion, Director of Licensing and Regulation Becky Smith and Compliance and Policy Manager Nicola Reid described the history and specifics of the agency’s dialogue with the engaged trade associations (WACA, CORE, and The Cannabis Alliance).
    • Smith and Reid then walked through their second draft issue brief which outlined the agency’s response to feedback from the trade associations. As the trade associations were no longer united in their positions, the ten-page memo described responses for WACA/CORE separately from responses to The Cannabis Alliance.
    • At this point, the agency had already decided the concessions they were willing to make (e.g., three accent colors instead of one) and the positions they would hold firm (e.g., “dull” shall be defined by Merriam-Webster).
  • Notably, this conversation included the first public mention of a parallel dialogue with prevention community group(s) to gather and consider their perspective on cannabis product, packaging and labeling rules.
    • Board Chair Jane Rushford raised her “concern that they’re not represented in some way” although the focus of the presentation was dialogue with the trade associations.
    • Earlier that month, Chair Rushford attended a prevention community conference with outgoing WSLCB Public Health and Education Liaison Mary Segawa and incoming WSLCB Public Health and Education Liaison Scott McCarty. McCarty now occupies one of five seats on the WSLCB’s internal product, packaging, and labeling review board.
    • The primary prevention community group in dialogue with WSLCB appears to be the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention (WASAVP). Here is WASAVP’s August 12th MIE complaint email and formal comment, the only MIE complaint filed by an organization thus far identified by Cannabis Observer.
    • Smith agreed to incorporate feedback from the prevention group(s): “we’ll provide, the information back to all of you with some changes as far as the prevention community, we’ll include that in, in this.” A WSLCB document outlining WASAVP’s proposals and MIE examples was shared with the trade associations in early December.
    • Smith concluded the presentation saying, “…we’d like to move forward, in, in making some interim, you know, interim rule changes, Board policies.” Two weeks later (Dec 12), three board interim policies were adopted.
  • Nicola Reid and Susan Harrell, WSLCB Program Specialist for Product Approval, hosted a “Marijuana Infused Edibles Packaging and Labeling Rules” webinar on December 18th (audio – 16m, presentation) where they also fielded questions (audio – 30m).
    • Important Dates
      • January 1, 2019 – “All new packages and labels must meet the requirements in WAC 314-55-105.”
      • January 1, 2020 (proposed date, not yet adopted by the Board) – “Changes due for all (new and previously approved) packaging and labeling. Must meet the requirements outlined in BIP 10-2018.”
    • Requests for changes to the palette of 16 approved packaging colors and 10 MIE shapes can be made by filling out a “Request for Change to Marijuana Infused Edible Approved Colors and Shapes” form, which does not appear to be available yet. Change requests will be reviewed quarterly beginning in March 2019.
    • WSLCB has recognized that BIP 10-2018 includes mention of a “cream” color which is not currently defined in the color palette.
    • The presentation (slide 17) and Reid indicated packaging and/or label backgrounds as well as text “must be either: white, cream, grey, black, tan or brown”. This guidance conflicts with the adopted language of BIP 10-2018, which specifies allowed combinations of background and text colors.
    • During the Q&A section of the webinar, Reid and Harrell did their best to field the “literally hundreds of questions coming in” from attendees. The slidedeck states and the presenters confirmed “All questions not answered will be answered in writing, and emailed to all attendees along with a link to the recorded webinar.”
    • WSLCB intends to update the Packaging and Labeling Resources section of their website by the first week in January.
    • The final bullet of the final slide of the webinar presentation states: ‘Additional information about the definition of “Therapeutic” and “Curative” and homogenization coming in January 2019.’ That’s a reference to BIP 08-2018 and BIP 09-2018, two additional interim policies held back by the Board before the last board meeting. These interim policies may be presented for adoption at the Board’s next meeting in Spokane on January 9th.

Cannabis Observer will continue to track this story as it develops. Want to keep eyes and ears on the WSLCB’s actions? Make our team your team on Patreon.