On October 3rd, staff at the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) publicly announced a re-interpretation of existing and new rules regarding the approval of marijuana infused edible (MIE) products and labels. The announcement surprised cannabis industry stakeholders, but is not a wholly unexpected realignment of the marketplace with established and upcoming law and rule.
Cannabis Observer has tracked this emerging story and conducted background research, including the acquisition of relevant internal communications of the WSLCB. We have composed a rough timeline of events we are aware of, which includes links to relevant emails, transcripts, and documents. We intend to continue refining this timeline as new information becomes available.
Here are our top three takeaways at this time:
- WSLCB has a history of inconsistent product, packaging, and labeling approvals and denials which created an internal necessity for action. This realignment has been a long time coming.
- The MIE product ban was the outcome of WSLCB trying to rectify that history. They had a choice of either changing the WAC or establishing consistency with their own language.
- After researching product bans in other states and studying how many products would need to be discontinued, WSLCB chose to establish consistency with current WAC language.
- It appears WSLCB research on existing product discontinuation underestimated industry impact or blowback.
- We have identified only 3 email complaints about this issue during the past three months.
- WSLCB board member and staff public statements indicating this action was motivated by feedback from the public, the industry, and other groups may be factually true – but appear to be overstatements. External demands for action do not appear to be the primary motivating factor.
- Cannabis Observer’s assessment could change given additional information we expect to receive later this week.
- Earlier this year, WSLCB created a new role for a “Licensing Program Specialist, Label Approval” who is responsible in part for “developing, implementing and managing the Licensing Division’s marijuana label approval program.”
- Email communications indicate the internal transfer of Susan Harrell into this role, reporting to Nicola Reid, set in motion the Board’s eventual approval of the course of action taken.
- Harrell and Reid presented the announcement to the Board on October 3rd.
- This is not to say Harrell and Reid are responsible for the decisions or outcomes of WSLCB’s actions, but rather to point out the apparent importance of this structural change within WSLCB and its relation to the timing of the subsequent change in the agency’s posture.
Here is what happens next:
- Industry stakeholders are convening at the Lemonhaze Cannabis Convention during the next two days. On Thursday from 2-4pm, CORE is organizing a dedicated work session in cooperation with The Cannabis Alliance and the Washington CannaBusiness Association (WACA) to inform a formal response to the WSLCB on this subject.
- The coalition of trade associations formally presents their proposal to the WSLCB on October 30, 2018.
- At the October 31 WSLCB Board Meeting, board members will hear a proposal to extend the effective date for the new PAL rules from January 1, 2019 to June 1, 2019.
- WSLCB intends to announce a response to the trade association coalition proposal by November 12.