Washington Legislature Approves Bill Promoting Compliance Education Rather than Enforcement

The Washington Legislature voted to enact a law that allows cannabis businesses an opportunity to fix issues identified before they are fined by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB). The bill is intended to refocus the state’s regulators from regulating though enforcement efforts to educating marijuana licensees on how licensees can meet the regulator’s compliance expectations. The bill limits the WSLCB’s ability to bring enforcement efforts against licensees for mistakes that do not directly harm the public health or safety.

Washington’s Legislature recognizes that local entrepreneurs assumed financial and other risk to build the marijuana industry, and that the industry will make mistakes as it grows. The new law requires the WSLCB to provide a marijuana licensee with a notice of correction for issues identified by the regulator during an inspection, and a statement on how the licensee can achieve compliance. The WSLCB may only issue a penalty if the licensee fails to comply with the notice of correction or engages in similar non-compliant activity. However, the new law does not limit the WSLCB’s ability to initiate an enforcement action for illegal activities outlined in the Cole memo including diversion of marijuana, the sale of marijuana to a minor, and diversion of money to criminal enterprises.