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On October 27, 2017, all producer licensees in Washington State received a message from the Washington State Liquor & Board (WSLCB) that the agency has formed a new team: the WSLCB Canopy Team. This team consists of five employees with the title “ Program Specialist”, and they began work on November 1, 2017.

The WSLCB announcement states, “[the] team’s primary function is data collection through ongoing measurement of marijuana plant canopy at producer locations. The Board plans to use the collected data to gauge the overall health and status of the marijuana plant canopy statewide. The canopy team will have members stationed in Olympia, Mount Vernon, Wenatchee, and Spokane. A team coordinator will work out of WSLCB headquarters. In the coming months and years, the canopy team will visit every producer on a rotating schedule. The team will reach out to producers to schedule appointments, and wherever possible, never arrive unannounced.”

This announcement was met with mixed emotions and skepticism.

What is the WSLCB up to with this new agency? Is it just research and data gathering? Or is there an enforcement piece attached to the team’s presence on your farm?

A recent article in Dope Magazine speculates the canopy team—in addition to its stated purpose—will enforce the canopy tiers to make sure producers are staying within their tier. In Washington, there are three types of producer licenses:

  • Tier One: up to 2,000 square feet of canopy
  • Tier Two: 2,001 – 10,000 square feet
  • Tier Three: 10,001 – 30,000 square feet

If the canopy team does have an enforcement function, they will likely measure your canopy to make sure the total canopy is within the license’s allotted tier.

WAC 314-55-010(23) defines “plant canopy” as the square footage dedicated to live plant production such as maintaining mother plants, propagating plants from seed to plant tissue, clones, vegetative or flowering area. Plant canopy does not include areas such as space used for the storage of fertilizers, pesticides, or other products, quarantine, office space, etc.Square footage is determined by measuring the width and length of a space, and multiplying those two numbers together. Square footage does not include the height of the plant that lies within the square footage space.

If your trellising system expands the plant out (instead of up),the canopy team’s measurement may put you over the allotted square footage. It may be best practices to take colorful tape and tape out the square footage of your canopy space, in each room or area, and trim plants to stay within the taped area —to ensure compliance with your canopy tier.

With the WSLCB’s statement, announcing each producer in the State will be visited, expect an announced visit sometime soon, and begin taking steps to ensure compliance as soon as possible.