Washington: Board Revises Marijuana Rules; Product Returns Now OK

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

New rules from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) released on Wednesday include now allowing marijuana retailers to accept any open product return with the original packaging.

The draft rules are necessary to implement SB 5052, 2015 legislation which "aligns the medical marijuana market with the existing recreational market" (by, in effect, subsuming the medicinal cannabis market into the recreational market, greatly reducing access for patients).

Under the rules timeline, a public hearing would be held May 4, with the Board being asked to adopt the rules on May 18. If adopted, the rules become effective June 18, prior to the availability of regulated medical marijuana products. The draft rules incorporate public comments received at seven public hearings across the state starting last fall.

“”These rules are based on extensive public input,” said Board Chair Jane Rushford. “The Board was diligent in listening and seeking practical input on its draft rules.

Highlights

Some highlights of the rule revisions include:

• Revised the definition of “licensed premises” to include all areas of a premises where the licensee has leasehold rights and any vehicle assigned to transport marijuana.

• Removed the requirement that “Mr. Yuk” stickers must be on all labels for marijuana infused edible solid and liquid products. "The Board will work with the Washington State Poison Center to create a new indicator for marijuana infused products," the WSLCB announced in a prepared statement. The Mr. Yuk sticker requirement had rightly caused controversy, because the sticker is supposed to be for poisonous substances, and, obviously, medicinal cannabis isn't poisonous. Kids who saw their parents taking medicine from a container with a Mr. Yuk sticker, therefore, would be put at danger, because then the stickers would no longer have as much of a deterrent effect.

• Allows a marijuana retailer to accept any open marijuana product return with the original packaging.

• Removed the requirement for the employee’s birthdate to be included on the employee ID badge. Employees must have their state issued identification available to verify the information on their badge.

• Added language that marijuana and marijuana products exposed to unauthorized soil amendments or fertilizers, or marijuana with detectable levels of unauthorized pesticides or plant growth regulators are subject to seizure and destruction.

• Added mandatory signs at the point of sale on a retail licensed premises.

• Added language that persons operating without a WSLCB approved marijuana licensed location will be discontinued. This language seems aimed at the operators of medical marijuana dispensaries which haven't been able to get "folded into" the new system with a 502 license. The deadline for non-licensed shops to close is July 1. (Sadly, many of even the best actors on the MMJ scene were unable to make the transition, costing lots of good people their livelihoods and costing many seriously patients their safe access.)

• Added language that if a person seeking to register a cooperative fails to meet the requirements the WSLCB will deny the cooperative registration. If a registered cooperative violates the requirements of a cooperative the WSLCB will revoke the cooperative’s registration. An administrative hearing may be requested in either case.

• Added language that failure to address monetary penalties for two or more violation notices in a three-year period will result in license cancellation. Licensees failing to respond to a violation or have outstanding fines shall not be eligible to renew.

• Removed "inventory destruction" as a penalty for producers and processors. Made all penalties for producers and processors monetary penalties; meaning that now they'll just take the money, not destroy the weed, of producers and processors.

A summary sheet of the full list of revisions can be found here.

Emergency Rules

In a separate action, the Board also adopted emergency rules following staff’s recommendation to implement product recall procedures for those products deemed a risk to public health and safety.

The emergency rules provide the ability to identify and remove products that have been found to pose a risk to public health in a fast and efficient manner. In addition the rules also provide licensees with the ability to withdraw products for reasons that are not related to public health risks, such as faulty packaging or aesthetic purposes.

Three Key Elements

Market withdrawals

· Licensee-initiated

· Not linked to public health or safety issues

· Licensee withdraws product from the market on its own

When a recall is required

· Licensee-initiated or WSLCB investigation initiated

· Involves risk to public health and safety

· Licensee is responsible for recalling product and destroys product under WSLCB observation

Board-directed recalls

· Used in instances where the licensee does not comply with a recall or if substantial risk to public health and safety exists

· WSLCB Enforcement seeks destruction order and conducts destruction of product if approved

You can read the emergency rules here.

Graphic: Graham Lawyer Blog