Washington State creates a cannabis equity program

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The state’s legislators approve a bill to reverse the war on drugs

As each state decides on its own cannabis legislation, there will always be aspects that are left behind and that will require future attention. Washington State has been making amendments to fix the lack of diversity in the cannabis industry. Despite having cannabis legislation for over eight years is not until now that Washington is taking care of the damage done by the war on drugs, especially to minority populations. The Washington State Commission on African American Affairs confirmed that not even 1% of the 556 recreational cannabis licenses that were granted were issued to African Americans and a new bill wants to change that.

Last week, the state legislature passed a bill, House Bill 2870, to repair some of the damage. Representative Eric Pettigrew is the sponsor of the state’s first Marijuana Social Equity Program, and, under this bill’s proposal, the Liquor and Cannabis Board will have to provide to social equity applicants access to a minimum number of cannabis licenses that were revoked.

After the bill was passed it now sits in Governor Jay Inslee’s desk, awaiting a signature. Further details regarding specifics on this bill are not finished yet, but it does say that its focus will be on benefiting “individuals who have been arrested or incarcerated due to drug laws, and those who have resided in areas of high poverty, suffer long-lasting adverse consequences, including impacts to employment, business ownership, housing, health, and long term financial well-being” as well as “family members, especially children, and communities of those who have been arrested or incarcerated due to drug laws.”

According to expectations, this program should be active and available at some point between December 1, 2020, and July 1, 2028. Each social equity license will have a $1,480 cost with a $250 fee to apply for one.