Enforcement Cannabis Reform

In 2019, Washington Legislature passed SB 5318, a bill dedicated to reforming the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (“WSLCB”) and its role within Washington’s cannabis industry. After listening to numerous members of the community, including a number of Cultiva’s Clients. Thanks to the passage of SB 5318, the WSLCB will dedicate more focus on compliance and education, rather than just enforcement. WSLCB hired Hillard Heintze, from an independent organization, to conduct an investigation on the WSLCB Enforcement Division to gain a better understanding of how to go about making the appropriate and necessary changes. Heintze’s final report outlined 18 suggestions, all falling within three key themes:

1. There is a need for transparency regarding agency decisions; application and interpretation of the rules, polices, etc. are inconsistent across both the WSLCB internally, and with licensees.

2. The role of enforcement is currently far too large—it is prevalent in the Division’s policies and WSLCB officers are greater trained in enforcement rather than their role as regulators.

3. Enforcement officers have no need to carry firearms while visiting license cannabis businesses.

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect is that the WSLCB “welcomes and accepts” the recommendations in the Heintze’s review. They are actively taking steps and implementing changes that reflect its commitment to compliance and education through transparency and consistency. Included in these changes is a revision of the WSLCB’s policies on apparel and firearms, as well as the creation of a central system that both staff and licensees may use to have reliable information. This is a critical step in realizing an empowered, strong, and competitive cannabis industry, while maintaining the protection of public health and safety.

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