WSLCB – Lab Licensure Listen and Learn Session
(June 3, 2019)

Industry stakeholders were not enthusiastic about a hypothetical laboratory license.

Here are some observations from the Monday June 3rd WSLCB Lab Licensure Listen and Learn Session.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • WSLCB Marijuana Examiner Manager Kendra Hodgson introduced and led the session.
    • Hodgson said the session was one of the agency’s “methods and modes of communication” with stakeholders and welcomed input beyond the event. She mentioned a second Listen and Learn session planned for Spokane on Wednesday (audio – 2m).
    • Hodgson’s overarching goal was to “gather feedback about possible future action” by WSLCB regarding laboratory licensure, but the discussion was “not a guarantee” of any specific action.
    • Hodgson described the current laboratory regulatory landscape and anticipated changes.
      • HB 2052 established a Cannabis Science Task Force and shifts responsibility for lab accreditation from WSLCB to the Department of Ecology (DOE) by July 1st, 2024. The law requires the agencies to work together towards that handoff, but Hodgson noted DOE would be responsible for creating their own rules.
      • WSLCB accredits labs but does not license them. Hodgson said a key hypothetical for the agency was determining what a lab licensure process would entail were it to become required via statutory changes between 2019 and 2024. The agency was “way out in front” of any new lab rules or legislation to become “well informed.” Hodgson had invited staff from other agency divisions to hear stakeholder input on whether or not lab licensing should be required. She asked participants to refrain from comments on quality assurance (QA) or other issues (audio – 8m).
      • At present, Hodgson and her staff have “direct connection with the labs” in addition to the relationship with vendor RJ Lee, which handles WSLCB’s lab accreditation program, annual audits, and “activities that RJ Lee does bill directly” to the agency. She shared a handout explaining current lab rules and upcoming steps required by HB 2052.
      • RJ Lee has accredited 13 cannabis labs with “core certification” to test cannabis, and several labs have obtained optional certifications to test for pesticides, heavy metals, or terpenes. Labs are reviewed annually, in-person or remotely, with yearly proficiency testing. Labs must have a state business license from the Department of Revenue (DOR), but not WSLCB. The accreditation, certification, and business license are all paid for by the lab. The agency is authorized to suspend or revoke lab certifications under certain circumstances, the limitations of which seem to be a matter of debate.
      • Hodgson shared that the lab fee total for application, accreditation, certification, and in-person review was a minimum of $8,939 for the first year, and $6,192 for the second and third years. The fourth year is the first where a lab can be reviewed remotely, with an estimated cost of $1,667. Beginning at year five, lab reviews alternate between in-person and remote. These estimates don’t include travel and per diem costs. Any additional follow up needed is billed to the lab at an hourly rate of $150.
      • Under HB 2052, DOE will set lab accreditation “testing standards, not product [testing] standards” and WSLCB retains control over what is tested for in cannabis products. The Cannabis Science Task Force, composed of both industry and state agency representatives, will be required to produce reports on product testing for pesticides and heavy metals by December 2022. Both DOE and WSLCB are authorized to incorporate Task Force findings in future rulemaking.
      • Lastly, Hodgson reminded participants that the Department of Health (DOH) would continue to determine testing required for medically compliant products independent of WSLCB or DOE.
    • Hodgson assured attendees their feedback and suggestions would become an official record and factor into how the agency approached licensing rules and the handoff to DOE (audio – 13m).
  • Only two laboratory stakeholders offered their perspectives and concerns.
    • Hodgson solicited in-person and remote comments. She also encouraged participants to contact her directly (audio – 1m).
    • Pat Reynolds, Operations Director at Confidence Analytics, said WSLCB should “probably not” license labs beyond DOE accreditation. He noted that Confidence Analytics’ banking provider “does business with us specifically because” the company wasn’t a licensee of the Liquor and Cannabis Board (audio – 1m).
    • Taber Salewsky, Technical Services Specialist at Praxis Laboratory, also asserted lab licensing by WSLCB wasn’t necessary as the agency already had adequate enforcement authority. He asserted that DOE deployed a per-test fee structure that would cost his business more to obtain and retain accreditation. If the WSLCB pursued lab licensure, Salewsky asked for a clear description of what a new license would accomplish compared to the other credentials currently required (audio – 1m).
  • Given the brevity of public comments, Hodgson opened up the forum for additional lab-related questions.
    • While opening the floor to questions, Hodgson indicated the agency was considering changes after witnessing the evolution of lab standards in other legal states, with many requiring ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation (audio – 4m).
    • Camilla Paine, Quality Assurance Manager at Praxis Laboratory, asked how WSLCB Enforcement “interacts” with labs currently as contrasted with a potential system of licensure. Hodgson answered that enforcement officers could currently enter labs and her “intent was to work on that.” She mentioned agency plans to bring a chemist on staff whose subject matter expertise would help “build out a better relationship between enforcement and the labs.” Hodgson said WSLCB “will have to have a role” in whatever enforcement system emerged from the handoff to DOE (audio – 3m).
    • Danielle Rosselison, President of The Cannabis Alliance, asked if it was possible for suspended or closed labs to reopen with new names – and whether that practice served the public. Hodgson said current rules weren’t designed to stop “an individual or an organization” from reapplying as a new lab even if they’d been part of a lab that closed by choice or regulatory action. She indicated that the agency is obligated to approve any lab that meets the agency’s accreditation standards. She concluded, “It’s something we can add to the conversation with [DOE]” (audio – 2m).
    • Salewsky asked if there would be a cap on the number of labs, similar to the jurisdictional caps for cannabis licensees. Hodgson responded that participation was a lab business decision, and the agency was unlikely to limit them (audio – 2m).
    • In light of the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) being granted more rulemaking authority for hemp under SB 5276, Gregory Foster of Cannabis Observer inquired if there was ”any conversation going on between the agencies on harmonizing your policies with regards to labs?” Hodgson confirmed WSLCB had talked with WSDA but the legislation clearly stated WSLCB “has no authority in regards to hemp.” She said discussions would continue but comments from agency staff suggested WSDA testing rules for hemp would have significant differences from marijuana product testing (audio – 2m).
    • Hodgson wrapped up the session by encouraging participants to send comments to either kendra.hodgson@lcb.wa.gov or rules@lcb.wa.gov. She promised to compile a summary describing feedback received, in addition to sharing the handout and presentation from the session. She also stated that the listen and learn format may be used for other topics in the future (audio – 2m).
Here are shared documents for your review:

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