Recently, we at 420leaks filed requests to the Washington State Department of Agriculture over their Industrial Hemp Research Program rule making files, and just last week they gave us a bunch of redacted documents from the Attorney General as part of it.
John Worthington’s copies:
Worthington complained back, saying you can’t redact public rule making files. Their public records officer hemmed and hawed over attorney/client privilege.
So March 28, 2017, Worthington filed a lawsuit against WSDA and had their office served at 2:00 pm.
Thirty-seven minutes later, they emailed us the files with no redactions.
Sent to Worthington:
Sent to me:
I guess they figured the corruption was not worth risking their careers over this time.
Why is any of this significant?
Well, for one, it shows us the Department of Agriculture and the Attorney General Staff is not as corrupt as what happened during the I502 rule making and the WSLCB. We have also seen no hidden hand of the Governor’s office this time, unlike what we saw around I502.
However, the process revealed that our group of researchers had it right when we believed the Attorney General’s Office was at least in part responsible for running the rule making in our state. Not so much the state agency heads.
They do this under the guise of the attorney/client privilege, so they can redact it all from public view. We say the AG’s office is partly responsible because we now have two different people from their office with two very different results: one still intent on burning up taxpayer funds to keep their secrets with I502, and one that did the right thing when confronted with the evidence.
What appears to be certain is eliminating the files from the public rule making file is not legal. It completely violates what the spirit of the Public Records Acts stands for; that the people are sovereign and government does not get to decide what is good for us.
“The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may maintain control over the instruments that they have created. This chapter shall be liberally construed and its exemptions narrowly construed to promote this public policy and to assure that the public interest will be fully protected. In the event of conflict between the provisions of this chapter and any other act, the provisions of this chapter shall govern.”
This was why the state settled over a case to make one public records requester go away, back at the end of 2014, that made headlines for the amount of the payout: $192,000 by the Washington State Liquor Control Board. They stand to lose even more with the case filed against them by John Worthington over these same files, with the next hearing coming in early June.
But not this time. Bravo to the WSDA and AG’s office. We at 420leaks give them a gold star…on this one. For now.
Having said that, the agency gets a major reduction in gold stars for lack of privacy protections. Their Industrial Hemp program director, Emily Febles, apparently allowed a breach on at least three of their own employees, potentially exposing their social security numbers, including her own information. This story was learned about in one of our recent requests that came back around the same time as the rule making files. We asked them this question: Did you follow proper protocols and notify all the employees affected within the time required by law? It appears not. See the email at
Which leads us to the next question. Why are two well known activists in Washington State bitterly fighting to the point of threatening lawsuits against each other, all around a bill that would take industrial hemp out of the state Controlled Substances Act?
The infighting has led to great confusion in the cannabis community and is a question that led us to asking for communications to the WSDA, one of which revealed the privacy breach. We hope to find answers and more as we go through these files, with more coming, from the WSDA.
But it looks like a battle between those who fear federal interference by removing it from the State’s Controlled Substances Act, and those who feel the plant needs to be descheduled with few regulations. View the public hearing in the Senate Law & Justice Committee back on March 9th.
The bill passed with a unanimous YES vote in both houses of the legislature in spite of efforts to kill or amend the bill by the Washington State Dept of Agriculture and a few from the cannabis community.