Cannabis Social Equity Licenses and the War on Drugs
SEATTLE – The Washington State Liquor Cannabis Board has been considering a point system to give those convicted of drug-related crimes and who served time in prison – preferential treatment for applying for a retail cannabis license.
If the rules are adopted, Seattle will set aside $1 million in grant money to assist them in getting started.
The proposal for the state and the city ordinance is part of a larger effort to create a social justice license for those adversely affected by the war on drugs.
Brianna Thomas (Labor Relations Policy Advisor to Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell) states, “We recognize the disproportionality of the war on drugs on the black community.”
In the early days of the war on drugs, simply possessing a marijuana cigarette could land you in prison or jail for several months or years.
However, times are changing.
State legislators created the Washington State Legislative Task Force on Equity and Social Justice in Cannabis in 2020. Furthermore, its goal is to make recommendations to Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board to issue retail cannabis licenses.
One recommendation was to give preferential care to someone arrested, convicted, and sentenced for a drug crime but might now wish to make money selling marijuana legally.
Additionally, Brian Smith, Liquor Cannabis Board Director of Communications, said, “Our intent is to be able to reach applicants that were disproportionally harmed by the war on drugs.”
He states that the LCB holds 40 licenses to promote social equity.
Cannabis Social Equity Licenses and the War on Drugs: Stipulations
However, applicants must meet several criteria, including the requirement to live in an area that has been disproportionally damaged for decades by the war on drugs.
The University of Washington is currently creating a map of the locations of these areas.
Another requirement in the rule is that, “The social equity applicant or a family member of the applicant has been arrested or convicted of a cannabis offense.”
In addition, applicants will be scored using a point system. The more severe the punishment for a conviction is, the better your chances are of getting a license.
Smith continues, “You get points for as little as just being arrested for let’s say a marijuana conviction, but you get additional points if you served time in jail or prison.”
Cannabis Social Equity Licenses and the War on Drugs: A Closer Look
While it may seem insensitive to turn people’s adversities into a point system, it can result in a leg-up in the cannabis industry.
An additional 5 points may be given to the applicant or their family members convicted for any drug offense, trafficking included.
Furthermore, Smith states that the higher the point total is, the greater the chances of getting a license for social equity.
“We should be helping those who want to turn their life around and say ‘hey I want to do this legitimately” states Adan Espino Jr., Executive Director of Craft Cannabis Coalition and industry lobbyist.
However, on the other hand, some people in the cannabis industry are calling this action a ‘political make good.’
Teresa Mosqueda, a Seattle Council member, stated that it was embarrassing to be the first state to legalize cannabis, not the social equality licenses other states have.
Furthermore, Mosqueda claims it’s about sharing the wealth created by 2012’s legalization of marijuana.
She continues, “That wealth can be shared with the folks that were disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs and to make up for that lost time we’ve had over the last 10 years when that equity approach wasn’t applied in the first go around.”
On Sept. 14, the LCB will hold a public hearing about proposed licensing rules for social equity.
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