OLYMPIA – Lawmakers in the state House OK’d legislation Sunday night designed to compensate for some of the inequities in the way marijuana licenses were awarded in the wake of the initiative that legalized the plant for recreational purposes.
House Bill 2870, introduced by Rep. Eric Pettigrew (D-37, Seattle), is an acknowledgment by the state that members of communities who were disproportionately targeted during the decades-long war on drugs were and are at a disadvantage when attempting to receive a cannabis license and enter the new and growing industry. The bill, if approved in the Senate and signed by Gov. Inslee, will establish a Marijuana Social Equity Program giving the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) the authority to begin correcting this imbalance.
“This is an attempt by the state of Washington to make access to the marijuana license more equitable,” Pettigrew said. “When we first started issuing those licenses, it was easy access for those who had a lot of resources and understood the process. Not surprisingly, this made it difficult if not impossible for many would-be entrepreneurs in communities of color, especially African Americans and Latinos, to obtain licenses to grow and process marijuana, or to open retail shops. This gives us an opportunity to go back and offer more equal access to citizens throughout the state.”
HB 2870 now moves to the Senate, which has until February 28 to approve the bill in committee and recommend it for a vote of the full chamber. The final date for passage on the Senate floor is March 6, with the Legislature scheduled to adjourn for the year on March 12.
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