Cannabis Equity

Cannabis Equity in Our Community - A Racial Equity Toolkit Project

Are you interested in addressing inequities in cannabis business opportunities in our community? We are. We are the City of Seattle's Finance and Administrative Services Department's (FAS) racial equity project team on Equity in Cannabis Business Licensing.  

FAS regulates cannabis businesses operating in Seattle through the marijuana business license. Ownership of the licensed cannabis businesses is not reflective of Seattle's diverse demographics. Mirrored in other cities and states, this disparity is a national trend. Our team formed to learn the causes of the disparity through stakeholder engagements and research, to develop recommendations to address disproportionate ownership of Seattle cannabis businesses and report back to our stakeholders.  

Our largest stakeholder engagement has been the Cannabis Equity in Our Community forum, Feb. 22, 2020. Held at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in the Central District of Seattle, over 100 community, industry and government employees attended. Our speakers included representatives from the City of Seattle, the Washington State Commission on African American Affairs and the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB). Attendees had the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback. 

We identified five reoccurring themes from attendees' questions and feedback.  

Forum Themes

1. Community: The communities most impacted by the inequitable application of the prior marijuana laws should be those who receive the assistance/benefits from the equity efforts.

2. Accurate data collection: Data collection should be based upon where the impacted communities currently reside. Do not base data collection on geographic locations. The geographic locations previously impacted no longer accurately represent the impacted individuals as they have moved to other geographic areas due to effects of gentrification and higher living costs.

3. Monetary support: How much financial support will be put into the community in the form of access to banking, startup money, business training? How does this contrast to revenue brought into the City by marijuana taxes and fees with cost to administer the program?

4. Include a marginalized group currently being omitted: the medical marijuana community. The medical marijuana patient community is not acknowledged, or data counted in the marginalized groups. Numerous medical marijuana access points existing before I-502 were closed as a result of not receiving recreational marijuana licenses through the license lottery. They were further overlooked when medical marijuana licenses were issued only to existing recreational stores. *

5. Legal concerns: Is a racial equity program going to be viable given the laws against preference based on race? Is the City/State prepared to fight this legal battle? *Side note: Prior to I-502 there was a significant representation of marginalized community members in the medical marijuana businesses. This went away with the implementation of I-502 and Senate Bill 5052.  

Did you miss the Feb. 22 Cannabis Equity in Our Community forum? Seattle Channel has provided a recording of the event here.  

Other Ideas for Coordination and Engaging Our Community

The City is also seeking ways to reach stakeholders who may not have attended the forum but have interest in this issue or has been impacted by historic marijuana enforcement. Any ideas you may have for engaging our communities will be helpful. Please reach out to us (marijuana@seattle.gov) if you have ideas for how:

  • The City can best reach other stakeholders
  • Ideas for community or association meetings the City's racial equity toolkit team on cannabis licensing can attend either virtually or in-person (when allowed), present and engage with other attendees.  

Preliminary Report

Review our preliminary report which explores other jurisdictions' cannabis-related equity policies to determine the best options and practices for addressing past harm due to historical marijuana enforcement.  

House Bill 2870 - Marijuana Social Equity Program  

House Bill 2870 effective June 11, 2020. The new state law establishes a Marijuana Social Equity Program, a Technical Assistance Competitive Grant Program and a legislative task force on social equity in marijuana. The purpose of the task force is to make recommendations to the WSLCB including establishing a social equity program for the issuance and reissuance of existing retail marijuana licenses, and  to advise the governor and the legislature on policies that will help development of a marijuana social equity program. The task force must submit a final report to the legislature by Dec. 1, 2020. A public comment period will be provided at every task force meeting. Some individuals may participate in an advisory capacity. There is no schedule yet of task force meetings. If you are interested in providing comment at future task force hearings please send an email to marijuana@seattle.gov. When task force meeting schedules are available, you will receive an email with a link to more information.  

We are still developing this webpage. Please check back for updates on our project.