Legislation that sought to increase social equity and diversity in Washington’s cannabis market died Feb. 15 after failing to clear the House, according to The Seattle Times.
House Bill 2022 aimed to incorporate policies recommended by Washington’s Social Equity in Cannabis Task Force, a group of lawmakers, government representatives and industry experts charged with making recommendations about issuing and reissuing cannabis dispensary licenses in ways that would promote business ownership among people of color.
The bill would have created new cannabis retail and producer/processor licenses every year through 2029 that could only be issued to social equity applicants through 2030. Then, beginning in 2031, the legislation mandated that half of the licenses were awarded to social equity applicants.
H.B. 2022 would have also set aside over $22 million annually to provide grants, low-interest loans and a mentorship program to social equity applicants, which the legislation defined as those who have lived in areas disproportionately impacted by prohibition, or those who plan to open a cannabis business owned by a racial group that has been disproportionately affected by arrests for cannabis possession.
Amendments and concerns raised by Republican lawmakers and lobbyists ultimately derailed the bill, Rep. Emily Wicks (D-Everett), the legislation’s main sponsor, told The Seattle Times. In the end, H.B. 2022 lost many of its Democratic supporters before a key Feb. 15 deadline to advance.
“I think it just takes a little bit more work with the Liquor and Cannabis Board to try to figure out how the licensing could be distributed in a way to make sure that, especially as the forfeit of licenses come into play, that they go to the social equity program,” House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan (D-Covington) told The Seattle Times.