The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board adopted emergency rules on April 6, 2020 that allows WSLCB staff to immediately shut down a business that violates the state’s COVID-19 requirements. The rules also provide a framework for licensees to appeal the decision and obtain a stay of the staff’s decision.
Under the COVID-19 proclamation, cannabis is deemed to be an essential service. The WSLCB issued an FAQ that outlines the social distancing requirements and permits curbside delivery. Businesses that change floor plans or other infrastructure to enforce social distancing must submit the changes to the regulator. Businesses must also notify the regulator about additional cash investments.
The new rule allows WSLCB staff to shut down a business if they determine that a licensed business violated Governor Inslee’s COVID-19 proclamation so long the closure is necessary for the public’s health, safety and protection.
A licensed business must shut down within twenty-four hours after personal receipt of the summary suspension unless the business immediately complies with the COVID-19 proclamation. Licensees may also file an appeal with the WLCB to stay the order so long as it is done within 10 days.
The state’s new emergency rule structure has significant ramifications for failing to comply with the state’s rules. Given the ease of shutting down a licensee, Washington cannabis businesses should review their processes and train employees on the measures to be taken for COVID-19 compliance.