New Laws Center Equity and Address Racial Inequities in the Cannabis Industry
SEATTLE – Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide) and Mayor Bruce Harrell proclaimed today’s unanimous vote by Council as “historic” in the fight to repair past harms in the war on drugs.
Beginning in 2021, Mosqueda and her Council colleagues began looking at cannabis policies with the Executive. Last month, Mosqueda chaired the discussion and final vote around the Cannabis Equity bills in her Finance and Housing Committee. Taken together, the body of work resulted in strengthening of the City’s work on equity, building career pathways, and righting historic wrongs.
Three pieces of legislation serve to address Cannabis equity in Seattle:
- CB 120391 – Expresses the City of Seattle’s intent to: engage in cannabis equity, expungement of cannabis convictions, equity work and funding, and develop a needs assessment for needs within the workforce and cannabis industry
- CB 120392 – Advances equity in cannabis licensing and expands licensed activities
- CB 120393 – Requires employers to take action to develop job retention, security, and stability within the cannabis industry
“Today’s Cannabis Equity legislation sets us on a path towards restoring harms created by the War on Drugs, and City and State policies,” said Councilmember Mosqueda. “Thanks to the coalition of advocates – including UFCW 3000, the Freedom Project, Black Excellence in Cannabis – and thanks to Mayor Harrell’s team, we are taking the first of many steps towards policies that center workers, those harmed by the War on Drugs, and displaced Black medical marijuana license holders. As one of the first areas to legalize cannabis, we also need to step up on implementing equity and reparations in the cannabis industry.”
The Executive prepared CB 120392 in response to community demands identified in the Cannabis Racial Equity Toolkit (RET), in anticipation of the State’s issuance of social equity licenses, and to express the City’s support for issuance of new cannabis business license types currently under consideration by the State’s Social Equity in Cannabis Task Force. The bill revises the licensing provisions for cannabis retailers, producers and processors doing business in or with the City of Seattle.
“I am very pleased to see that this joint effort between my office, the Council, FAS and community stakeholders has resulted in the passage of this suite of bills. It’s worth repeating that this is a first – but necessary – step toward equity long overdue in the cannabis industry,” said Mayor Harrell. “The work still to come will highlight additional opportunities for improvement in our current system, and I look forward to the recommendations that result from the Cannabis Needs Assessment. This work won’t be easy, but I believe together we can foster an open conversation between workers, community members and industry leaders to identify common priorities and align on efforts to advance our shared values of equity and restoration.”
“We see this package of legislation as a first step on a journey to right the wrongs of a system that has harmed black and brown communities – from those arrested and prosecuted who will have their convictions expunged, to the black business owners who were wrongly shut out of the legal market after voters passed I-502, to community leaders who have tirelessly advocated for cannabis dollars to be invested to those most impacted, and to the budtenders who every single day risk their lives going to work due to armed robberies because our federal government has failed to reform our banking system,” said Matt Edgerton, Cannabis Division Director, UFCW 3000. “These workers, organized and unorganized, deserve to be safe, and to be able to access trainings that enable them to be successful, advance their skills and develop the industry as a whole. That’s who this legislation has always been about and whose voices we have sought to center in our advocacy.”
“We have appreciated the opportunity to work constructively with Mayor Harrell and the City Council on the three ordinances addressing the important issue of cannabis equity in Seattle,” said Adán Espino, Executive Director, Craft Cannabis Coalition. “We know that this is just a start, and there will be further work on this topic over the next year. We look forward to working with the Mayor’s team on the fair, even handed, and thoughtful cannabis equity needs assessment process that these ordinances set out to establish.”
A little history…
In 2012, Washington State became one of the first two states to legalize adult recreational use of cannabis following voter approval of Initiative 502. Cities, towns, and counties in Washington State may prohibit or designate appropriate zones for state-licensed cannabis businesses. The City has issued 45 retail licenses (all in the city) and 88 producer/processor licenses (51 in the city and 37 outside of the city.)
In 2018, Finance and Administration Services (FAS), together with the City’s Office of Economic Development, the Department of Construction and Inspections, and the Office for Civil Rights, initiated a RET on Cannabis Licensing initially focused on business licensing. Based on community feedback, the RET mission expanded to include:
- Access to licenses and capital;
- Access to business education and mentorship;
- Community reinvesting;
- Small Business Association (SBA) business plan support;
- Flexibility to pivot quickly as new barriers arise;
- Reinvesting proceeds into the Black community; and,
- Rebuilding generational wealth.
Earlier this year, in 2022, at a Finance and Housing Committee meeting, FAS presented community and stakeholder recommendations from the RET. The recommendations included prioritizing benefits for equity efforts to communities most impacted by prior cannabis laws, making reparations for medical cannabis businesses closed due to state and city licensing requirements, and providing financial support for members of those impacted communities wishing to start new cannabis businesses.
Next Steps: Taken together, the bills are effective 30 days after the Mayor signs the legislation into law; however, the substantive protections of the job retention ordinance will be applied nine months after the effective date in an effort to allow for the Office of Labor Standards to prepare for implementation.