Washington: WSLCB Enforcement Changes Policy on Plant Canopy

Washington: WSLCB Enforcement Changes Policy on Plant Canopy

My colleagues and I recently attended the Washington Cannabis Association’s (WACA) summer meeting in Walla Walla, WA. We heard from regulators, politicians, and most importantly, cannabis businesses. One common refrain we heard from producers was a new policy from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) with regards to how the board is enforcing rules surrounding plant canopy. Reports from the WACA conference indicate that there has been a change, starting in about April, in how WSLCB Enforcement determines what is considered “canopy.” Area that was previously not considered canopy, such as pathways surrounding plots where cannabis is growing or corridors between rows of plants, are now being classified as canopy. As a result, Enforcement is finding violations even though many producers have made no changes to the amount of cannabis they grow and are operating pursuant to previously approved floor plans. It appears that this change is mainly due to the Enforcement’s change of policy, not due to changes in how cannabis producers are operating. On June 30, 2022, Enforcement sent a message to all licensees stating that “in October 2021, the [WSLCB] communicated the Enforcement and Education Division’s protocol related to canopy enforcement.” Without outright saying it, this appears to be an acknowledgement of the new policy regarding canopy. More importantly, the message states the following Related to canopy, for the duration of 2022, any seizure or directive to have a licensee cut down over canopy plants must be based on a canopy measurement that would be over canopy if the pathways (or areas between rows) were not included in the calculation. In the meantime, the WSLCB will continue to develop an enforcement strategy. Background on Washington Plant Canopy The term “canopy” does not appear in the text of Initiative 502 (I-502) the legislation that established, along with Colorado, the…

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