People in the cannabis industry have been looking for ways to diversify and create social equity, and now Washington State has passed a law to promote diversity in the cannabis industry and help those who need to have a seat at the table get a leg up.
According to the Seattle Times, House Bill 2870 passed 57-40 in the House on March 17. It would create a task force to back the Marijuana Social Equity Program, a group that would help those trying to break into the industry, and would allow the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board to issue retail cannabis licenses to those disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. This will continue for the next eight years.
The program would consider the personal and family history of applicants with the criminal justice system as well as the neighborhood an applicant is trying to use as a home base for their business. This bill will become law on Dec. 1, if signed by Gov. Jay Inslee.
Representative Eric Pettigrew, who backed the bill, claims that even though this may be a difficult process, he thinks it will be worth it. “With marijuana, I was just thinking of it as a potential revenue source,” Pettigrew said. “That was an awakening for me,”
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, black people were almost four times more likely than white people to be arrested for cannabis in Washington before it became legal. Furthermore, the Commission on African American Affairs stated that approximately one percent of recreational cannabis business licenses are held by people of color. There are other major concerns about the state’s current approach to business owners, including how the Liquor and Cannabis Board needs a “culture change,” and rumors of unionization.
The state of Washington continues to be progressive with monumental moves such as allowing drone delivery. The state is also home to some universities that are currently involved in studying cannabis.