WSLCB – Board Caucus
(July 23, 2019)

Here are some observations from the Tuesday July 23rd Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) Board Caucus.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • A new Board Interim Policy regarding traceability was adopted during an unusual caucus visit by key agency staff (audio – 10m).
    • The jerky rollout of release 1.37.5 of MJ Freeway’s Leaf Data Systems proved troublesome with on-going complaints of data migration errors and problems with lab results. See Cannabis Observer’s latest update and observations from the most recent Traceability Advisory Committee meeting.
    • Board Chair Jane Rushford said the newest Board Interim Policy (BIP) would provide an “extra tool to licensees” to meet WSLCB reporting expectations.
    • Deputy Director Megan Duffy briefed the Board on the proposal. She offered background on the “challenges for licensees, for integrators, for folks engaged in the industry and business” since last week’s release, specifically around “association and retrieving of lab results and creating obstacles to transferring product.”
    • While the agency continued to “alleviate” those problems on a technical front, including reactivation of the interface to manually create manifests, Duffy said the BIP offered “flexibility” by allowing “workarounds” while the agency and its vendor tried to resolve outstanding system issues.
    • BIP 13-2019 would allow “workarounds to vary from some of the standard procedures that are identified or associated in particular with WAC 314-55-102 and WAC 314-55-085” dealing with testing and transportation requirements, respectively. Duffy emphasized workarounds must maintain product traceability, accurate test results, and product safety.
    • The BIP would establish formal agency clearance for integrators and licensees to “develop and implement workarounds that will work for them.” Reporting was necessary to “catalogue” workarounds, but agency approval was not required prior to use. 
    • Mary Mueller, WSLCB’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), acknowledged “we’ve seen some great ideas coming from the licensee and integrator community” which helped keep the marketplace operational. She added, “we also have teams that are ready to review the workarounds and then post Frequently Asked Questions so that the licensees can learn from each other.” Mueller reported her top priority was repairing the “lab results page” in the Leaf web interface which the agency was working with MJ Freeway to resolve.
    • Kendra Hodgson, the WSLCB Cannabis Examiner Manager, emphasized the BIP did not permit all workarounds, but narrowly targeted “some very specific types of workflows connected to lab results and connected to manifests.”
    • Deputy Chief Steve Johnson confirmed the Enforcement division had been consulted and “we’re sure that we can make it work.” He acknowledged “challenges” if the interim process continued but promised enforcement would “do our part” to ensure the policy was successfully communicated to staff and licensees.
    • Director Rick Garza underscored “what we talk about here and what happens in the field can be different at times” leading him to suggest a webinar with agency staff to communicate “what’s being allowed, or not.” Internal outreach would help clarify what enforcement should expect, make clear the Board’s expectations, and provide an opportunity to answer staff questions.
    • Following supportive statements from both Rushford and Board Member Ollie Garrett, the Board approved the interim policy without further questions.
    • The WSLCB announced the BIP to the regulated community on Tuesday afternoon via an initial and follow up email message which provided “licensees, labs, and integrators flexibility to develop workarounds to problems directly associated with the lab test data and manifest information that remain unresolved by recent fixes to the System. These workarounds may vary from the lab test and manifest standards” in the specified statutes “so long as the workarounds continue to meet the following four conditions.
      • Report Workarounds. Any workaround adopted by licensee or integrator must be reported to the LCB prior to use. A dedicated email address is provided for that requirement (workarounds@lcb.wa.gov)
      • Maintain Traceability. All labs, licensees, and integrators must maintain records ensuring all product is traced from producers to retail sales.
      • Maintain Test Accuracy. Any traceability workaround must not compromise or misrepresent true test results of products involved in Quality Assurance (QA) testing.
      • Maintain Product Safety. All products must maintain accurate packaging, labeling and all pesticide requirements.” 
    • Check out all current BIPs, WSLCB’s traceability portal, and traceability training and information for licensees. The Board also recently extended deadlines on several BIPs unrelated to traceability.
  • Board Chair Jane Rushford offered thanks to third-party software integrators and others involved in mitigating the latest traceability challenges (audio – 1m).
    • Rushford first acknowledged licensee and agency staff “engagement, expertise, and commitment.”
    • She then thanked the third-party software providers, in particular David Busby of WeedTraQR, Chase Towery of Cultivera, and Tom Wilson from GrowFlow. “Their innumerable extra hours and expertise and extra steps are greatly appreciated,” Rushford said, later calling the integrator and staff commitment “very apparent.”
    • Duffy later seconded Rushford’s gratitude, saying the integrators tested late into the night and “were available at all times of the day.” She felt the “importance and significance of that partnership” was crucial.
  • Board Member Ollie Garrett reported the agency continued its dialogue with Prosper Portland to learn more about social equity programs in Oregon (audio – 6m).
    • The Board spoke with Prosper Portland’s manager, Tory Campbell, earlier this month.
    • In a follow up call last Thursday to connect staff at each agency, Garrett said WSLCB Tribal Liaison Brett Cain and others learned more about social equity efforts in Portland. She indicated they’d learned “valuable information” including how Prosper Portland secured grant money and identified technical assistance for the industry. Garrett added that the organization was “trying to make it go statewide down [in Oregon],” a move assisted by the state’s more liberal approach to licensing.
    • Referencing Garza’s statement during the Cannabis Advisory Council promising agency staff would provide a social equity program recommendation to the Board within 30 days, Garrett said: “I’m eager to see what, when you guys are going to come back and report something to us, Rick, on what you’ve come up with.”

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