US (WA): Bill addressing racial inequity in cannabis licenses gets OK from Washington House

Washington House lawmakers Sunday passed a bill intended to address racial inequity within the cannabis industry by issuing previously forfeited, canceled and revoked retail licenses to applicants of a new social equity program.

House Bill 2870 would require the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) to prioritize applicants who represent communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. In issuing licenses, the agency would consider factors including the applicant’s race and gender, history of marijuana convictions during prohibition, and plans to employ people of color, as well as the impact the war on drugs had on their neighborhood.

The LCB requested the legislation, and the panel says it has 13 licenses not currently being used that could be redistributed. A marijuana social equity task force established under HB 2870 would have to recommend whether more licenses should be issued by December.

The legislation would also create a grant program to assist new licensees with navigating the licensing process, developing business plans, networking and other skills. LCB director Rick Garza said HB 2870 is meant to establish social equity goals that weren’t addressed in 2012 when voters legalized recreational marijuana by approving Initiative 502. One important goal, supporters say, is addressing the residual effects of the war on drugs that are seen in the cannabis industry.


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