Board members reviewed feedback from the recent special board meeting and approved a cannabis compact with the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation.
- Policy and Rules Manager Kathy Hoffman discussed the public hearing on the Quality Control Testing and Product Requirements rulemaking project and plans to keep moving forward.
- Quality Control (QC) Testing and Product Requirements (Rulemaking Project, audio – 10m). Hoffman began by saying “we can all appreciate how revising product quality control rules related to cannabis is a really extremely complex body of work” which elicited a “wide range of positions” during the project’s November 18th hearing. Her team was “seeing theme emergence that did not exist before” amongst comments received.
- Hoffman claimed some recommendations needed legislative action, whereas others had been reviewed and “added additional substantive cost and [interagency] operational requirements” that weren’t “feasible at this time.” However, she said some suggestions would get “a closer look” from staff, who were going through “each comment”—“over 100 pages” of input—and updating the comment table. Her team was preparing a “summary document” to address and “memorialize” comment themes such as “independent, third-party sample deduction.”
- Hoffman confirmed the agency was “indeed moving forward” with the rulemaking project and expected to present “something” to board members “in mid- to late-December.”
- Board Chair Jane Rushford communicated that the resulting QC rules “won’t meet everyone’s preferences or objectives” but insisted the goal for staff needed to be “a workable rule set as opposed to simply getting it done.”
- Board Member Russ Hauge was grateful to “the Rules team” at the agency “for stepping up to this” and taking “time to do this right.” He agreed that documenting what was in WSLCB’s rulemaking power and what wasn’t had value for the public on a “controversial issue” like QC even if it failed to “change the issue that much.” He didn’t want the agency to move in a capricious way which “increases the burden unnecessarily” on struggling licensees. He noted “rational” testing rules furthered “social equity” in the industry.
- Hoffman agreed with the Board and noted she was already hearing from those in the industry “in the time that we’ve been on this call” who wanted to share new ideas. She concluded the agency would be “continuing on these rules.”
- The Board approved a new cannabis compact with the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, which would allow for “retail and production” facilities.
- Cannabis Observer previously identified 16 of the 29 federally-recognized tribes in Washington who had entered into cannabis compacts with WSLCB acting as the State’s representative.
- WSLCB Director of Legislative Relations Chris Thompson said the Tribe approached WSLCB after “feeling some real strain fiscally” due to the coronavirus pandemic and their leadership viewed cannabis as a way to “shore up tribal services for tribal members as quickly as possible” (audio – 9m).
- Thompson and staff met with a tribal attorney to draft a compact suited to the sovereign nation’s needs that had been reviewed by WSLCB’s “Tribal Compact Team,” Thompson himself, and counsel from the Washington State Office of the Attorney General (WA OAG). “One issue that was spotted” had been resolved and the compact was “pretty thoroughly vetted.” The draft had also been reviewed by the Office of the Governor and the Washington State Department of Revenue (DOR). Once signed, the compact would facilitate the Tribe’s partnership with WSLCB on cannabis “retail and production, possibly other activities down the road,” he said.
- Rushford welcomed the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation’s Director of Government and Public Relations, Jeff Warnke. He said he spoke on behalf of the Chairman of the Chehalis Tribe, Harry Pickernell Sr., and described the compact as an “important economic development issue for the Tribe.” Warnke shared the thanks from tribal leaders for the WSLCB’s work on the document, calling it “an absolute pleasure” to collaborate and emblematic of “the great relationship” their government had with the State of Washington. Warnke said the compact would “truly create a great opportunity for the Tribe to provide essential government services for its members” during COVID-19.
- The Board moved to adopt the compact which would be delivered to the Governor for final approval before becoming effective.
- Board Member Russ Hauge brought up public remarks on diminished transparency at the agency and how WSLCB could “amplify the public dimension of what it is we’re doing.”
- During the November 18th special board meeting, Cannabis Observer Founder Gregory Foster called attention to the continued absence of Executive Management Team (EMT) meetings. Foster said, “in order for your stakeholders and the public to be meaningfully engaged we need good information about what the Board is thinking and doing” and EMT gatherings offered “the best places for that to happen because that is where you are interacting with staff directly.” Foster previously raised the issue on July 8th before a commitment from Rushford to host the meetings on a monthly basis.
- Hauge said his understanding of Foster’s testimony was that “in this time of COVID, and lockdowns, and nobody in the office, it’s hard for the public to understand” agency deliberations (audio – 9m).
- While the agency was not required to convene EMT meetings, he acknowledged that some board caucus meetings had been “kind of abbreviated.” He felt the Board should act to “fill the gap in information about what’s going on…because our licensee base is in crisis right now,” particularly restaurants and alcohol licensees. Hauge asked for ways WSLCB could “amplify the public dimension of what it is that we’re doing” and “share more information.”
- Rushford echoed Hauge’s view and said the Board would seek to “structure meetings differently,” holding more in-depth conversations during caucuses “especially after the first of the year.” She indicated the agency was planning to host the next EMT meeting on December 9th.
- Garrett was similarly supportive and observed that as circumstances changed from restrictions due the coronavirus, “I don’t think any of us thought we’d still be going through this…and it’s worse than it was at the beginning.”
Complete Audio – Cannabis Observer
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