PRESS RELEASE – On Nov. 18, 2020, at 10:00 a.m. the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) heard public comments on its most recent Proposed Rules for Quality Control Testing and Product Requirements. These rules would increase flower lot size from 5 lbs to 10 lbs and require each lot as well as concentrates be tested for pesticides starting Aug. 1, 2021, and would add heavy metal testing requirements Jan. 31, 2022.
Casey Scaufler, WSLCB Rule Coordinator, indicated that the WSLCB had received hundreds of written comments. More than 47 individuals signed up to testify at Wednesday’s virtual public hearing, the largest turnout the WSLCB has seen since shifting all meetings online in March of 2020 following guidance issued in the Governor’s Proclamation 20-28 (Open Public Meetings act and Public Records Act).
Those offering verbal comment were universally opposed to the proposed rules as written. Many farmers called attention to the rules’ continued reliance on self selection of samples for testing and the problem of using an honor-based system to catch bad actors.
Many of the farmers in attendance identified as members of Washington Sungrowers Industry Association (WSIA), a non-profit trade association dedicated to supporting sustainably farmed sungrown cannabis by encouraging positive environmental and economic policy through advocacy, education, and research who had encouraged farmers to attend and comment at Wednesday’s hearing.
Micah Sherman of Raven Grass was first to testify on behalf of his craft cannabis farm. He highlighted the reality that these rules would cost smaller farmers more money to comply with than large producers. He suggested that, "We need an approach to testing at the broad farm level combined with random testing of finished products in stores and at farms."
Jade Stefano of Puffin Farm explained that her business was Clean Green Certified as well as Sun and Earth Certified and already tested products for pesticides. She acknowledged the dangers and risks associated with pesticides but highlighted the need for the WSLCB to adopt "smart testing that would not put them out of business while protecting the integrity of the results."
Greg Foster of Cannabis Observer called into question the WSLCB’s use of the Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance (ORIA) minor cost calculator for their Small Business Economic Impact Statement (SBEIS), which relies on broad multi-industry data rather than data from the state’s very expensive traceability system. He suggested that the WSLCB should be using the traceability data to estimate financial impact since it is available.
Crystal Oliver, Executive Director of WSIA, described lot based testing for pesticides and heavy metals as "excessive and unnecessary" and highlighted that, "while cannabinoid concentration may vary throughout the plant, the use of pesticides does not vary throughout a harvest," she suggested that "pesticide testing be done on a regular basis at the farm level" and that "heavy metal testing should focus on soil and vape cartridges."
Other farmers highlighted the disproportionate impact these rules would have on small businesses owned by minorities and women who don’t have access to the capital necessary to scale up and modify their business operations to remain viable when faced with such incredible cost increases.
The meeting came to an end just after 12:30 pm. The WSLCB Board of Directors will likely take action at their next meeting after staff has had the opportunity to review all comments received. Staff can recommend the rules be adopted and moved to a CR 103 final adoption stage or may identify that substantive changes are required which would result in an additional supplemental CR 102 proposal with another comment period and public hearing.