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Washington State Prepares To Rewrite Marijuana Testing And Packaging Rules

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Marijuana regulators in Washington State will entertain sweeping changes to how marijuana is tested, processed, packaged and sold in one of the U.S.’s oldest recreational marijuana markets, officials announced late Wednesday.

Recreational cannabis has been sold in regulated retail outlets in Washington since 2014. Consumers there pay one of the country’s highest tax burdens, generating nearly $400 million in revenue through the first three years of legalization, as the Stranger reported in late 2017.

But medical marijuana patients have long complained about limited product availability. And a recent string of testing labs suspended for erratic results that allowed unsafe product to reach retail shelves has shaken confidence in product safety.

“Requests from the industry have…been received regarding testing requirements, and changes in testing requirements in other states have prompted further review of WSLCB rules for potential adjustment,” the new notice from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board said. “Additionally, the WSLCB has heard from the medical marijuana patient community that they would like to see additional product types or levels of potency that are not currently supported by the regulatory structure.”

“For these reasons, changes to products, serving amounts in packaging, and other related requirements may be considered,” the regulators announced Wednesday.

Wednesday evening’s notice is the initial notification of potential rulemaking, and “no rule language is offered at this stage of the process.”

Members of the public can submit comments or proposals until October 24. No proposed rules changes are expected to be filed until “on or after October 31,” the notice said.

“Following the comment period, the agency will send out and publish the proposed rules, establish a comment period on the proposed rules, and hold a public hearing before the rules are adopted,” according to the agency.

Until then, the agency “will consider the following topics for potential rulemaking changes,” according to Wednesday’s notice:

  • Lot and batch sizes;
  • Fields of testing and pass/fail level adjustments;
  • Potency testing requirements;
  • Pesticide testing requirements for all cannabis products;
  • Heavy metals testing requirements;
  • Sample deduction requirements;
  • General testing rule adjustments;
  • Product, THC serving limits, and packaging requirements; and
  • “Other related rule changes that may be necessary or advisable,” according to the notice.

Whatever “further adjustments” the agency will propose are meant to “increase efficiencies in testing” and “increase the availability of compliant [cannabis] products,” the notice said.

Anyone interested in submitting comments or proposed rules can contact Joanna Eide, Policy and Rules Coordinator, at [email protected].

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Chris Roberts is a reporter and writer based in San Francisco. He has covered the cannabis industry since 2009, with bylines in the Guardian, Deadspin, Leafly News, The Observer, The Verge, Curbed, Cannabis Now, SF Weekly and others.

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Banking Lobby Surveys Members On Problems Serving Marijuana Businesses

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The largest group representing U.S. banks is asking its members to share stories demonstrating problems caused by the growing gap between marijuana’s ongoing federally prohibited status and its legalization in an increasing number of states.

In an email announcing the cannabis survey last week, the American Bankers Association (ABA) said that responses will be used by the national organization and its affiliated state bankers associations “to help illustrate to regulators and legislators the need for greater clarity” on the issue.

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

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Canada’s Liquor Stores Will Heavily Outnumber Marijuana Stores On Legalization’s Launch

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In case you missed it, Canada’s legal marijuana system goes into effect next week. But new data reveals that access to liquor stores is going to be far greater than planned cannabis store—at least for the time being.

Statistics Canada, a government agency, released the report, which compares the prevalence of liquor stores and planned cannabis stores in each Canadian province, on Wednesday. The team behind the report notes that information about pending private or government-run marijuana shops is incomplete—excepting online retailers, for example.

“Using the agency’s geographic databases, the location of each Canadian household is identified, and the distance from that location to the nearest legal retail outlet is calculated. Averages of these distances are then calculated to determine how generally accessible these products are to Canadians.”

The top-level takeaway is pretty straightforward. Ninety percent of Canadians currently live within 10km (or about six miles) of a liquor store. Only 35 percent of the Canadian population lives within the same distance of a planned cannabis store. Visualized, here’s a look at the access to cannabis and liquor stores based on population density in each province:

Access to liquor stores by province

Population of Canadians with access to a liquor store based on distance. 

1 km 2 km 5 km 10 km More than 10 km
Canada 11,362,355 21,277,831 28,876,635 31,711,644
Newfoundland and Labrador 84,776 158,242 265,484 321,357
Prince Edward Island 20,498 38,328 77,954 107,592
Nova Scotia 207,360 382,390 588,728 738,101
New Brunswick 112,467 229,098 419,581 542,312
Quebec 2,360,006 4,650,155 6,499,149 7,290,334
Ontario 3,460,906 7,835,317 11,587,894 12,770,424
Manitoba 349,046 758,067 913,421 977,472
Saskatchewan 249,628 539,875 746,822 793,642
Alberta 2,591,997 3,336,786 3,554,164 3,704,638
British Columbia 1,908,747 3,323,470 4,168,425 4,402,666
Yukon 4,407 8,264 23,824 26,294
Northwest Territories 9,326 14,648 23,449 29,072
Nunavut 3,191 3,191 7,740 7,740

Access to planned cannabis stores by province

Population of Canadians with access to a planned cannabis store based on distance. 

1 km 2 km 5 km 10 km More than 10 km
Canada 1,440,702 3,797,855 8,757,433 12,194,999
Newfoundland and Labrador 51,424 141,076 274,922 336,714
Prince Edward Island 6,907 29,616 59,576 82,626
Nova Scotia 43,792 135,644 363,855 512,091
New Brunswick 34,833 97,642 290,802 414,181
Quebec 171,052 572,007 1,789,784 3,296,701
Ontario 0 0 0 0
Manitoba 72,366 261,485 747,866 826,490
Saskatchewan 117,606 316,339 684,128 727,937
Alberta 624,382 1,394,464 2,229,038 2,593,820
British Columbia 317,523 846,977 2,302,059 3,381,659
Yukon 817 2,605 15,403 22,780
Northwest Territories 0 0 0 0
Nunavut 0 0 0 0

“Canadians have remarkably good access to liquor stores all across the country with 90 percent living within 10 kilometers of a store,” the report states. “Not surprisingly, their access to cannabis stores immediately after legalization on October 17, 2018 is likely to be much more restricted with only 35 percent of the population dwelling within 10 kilometers of a store.”

“It is emphasized this is a preliminary estimate based on less-than-full information about the number of stores expected to open and their locations. Cannabis accessibility will undoubtedly increase substantially in 2019 and 2020.”

For a comprehensive breakdown on the differences in marijuana legalization implementation for each province, check out this Marijuana Moment analysis.

Marijuana Stores Will Be Hard To Find For Most Canadians On Day One Of Legalization

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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Marijuana Stores Will Be Hard To Find For Most Canadians On Day One Of Legalization

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One week from today, Canadian adults will be able to purchase marijuana legally across the country. But the number of stores per province and per capita at this point varies widely, an analysis Marijuana Moment conducted shows.

For residents of Canada’s most and least populous provinces, Ontario and Nunavut, respectively, online ordering will be their only means of legal purchase for the foreseeable future. British Columbia, the third-biggest province in the country with 4.8 million residents, has licensed only one store. Meanwhile, Northwest Territories, with only 44,520 residents, will open six government-run stores, or one per 7,420 residents.

(Note: British Columbia omitted for scale, as it has only one store for 4.8 million residents. Ontario and Nunavut will be online sales only on October 17. Population 2017 per Statistics Canada)

While many of even these preliminary licensed locations will not be operational October 17, by federal law, each province must provide an online purchasing system. 

And the provinces have committed to opening more physical stores. Manitoba has set a goal that 90 percent of Manitobans have a 30-minute drive or less to a cannabis store. Ontario was supposed to have 40 stores run through the province by now, but when the new provincial government came into power in June, they decided that cannabis stores will be privately owned, so legislators had to go back to the drawing board on regulations. 

Alberta hasn’t set a limit for the overall number of private stores in the province, but each locality will be allowed to set a limit for their area. Hundreds of companies have applied to be retailers.

Each province has set up its own rules and regulations regarding minimum age for sales, possession limits and whether residents can grow plants at home.

As with alcohol, the age at which Canadians can purchase cannabis is lower than in the United States. In Quebec and Alberta, 18 year-olds will be able to purchase adult-use marijuana. In every other province, the legal age will be 19. By contrast, in the U.S., every state that has legalized recreational marijuana to date has set the legal age at 21, which is also the legal drinking age in the states.

In most provinces, four plants can be grown in a household. Quebec and Manitoba are prohibiting home growing; Nunavut is not prohibiting personal growing, but has not defined a limit. New Brunswick has specified conditions to allow plants to be grown outdoors (a locked enclosure 1.52 meters high). British Columbia has specified that home plants must not be visible to the public, and won’t be allowed in day-care homes.

The national standard for purchase and public possession for adults is 30 grams of product of any kind. Quebec has set a limit on household possession at 150 grams, but other provinces have not set limits on how much cannabis can be kept in a private home.

What will make up those 30 grams? Flower, oils and, in provinces that are allowing home growing, seeds and plants. The federal legislation prohibits edibles and concentrates at this time.

Public use of cannabis is the policy that varies the most widely from province to province. Most provinces have adopted the stance that smoking or vaping marijuana will be illegal anywhere smoking or vaping tobacco is not allowed. Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Yukon have banned public use (the regulations of the latter two specify backyard use as well as homes). Alberta and Nunavut have left it up to local governments to set regulations. Ontario and Quebec have set specific locations where it will be illegal to consume, including parks, public spaces and bus shelters.

Every province has passed legislation of some form banning cannabis for drivers in vehicles, but legal limits will differ from province to province. Quebec has adopted a “zero tolerance” policy for all drivers, while Ontario is setting zero tolerance for drivers under 21 years of age as well as commercial drivers. Other provinces are developing systems for how driving while impaired will be determined.

With retail stores spare in Ontario and British Columbia, perhaps Regina, Saskatchewan will become the tourist destination of choice for Americans thinking about crossing the border to experience legalization in their northern backyard. Those tourists should be sure to empty their pockets and car before returning to the United States, as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has promised to crack down on Canadians and U.S. citizens alike.

Photo courtesy of Christopher Policarpio.

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