People asked, and the voices have been heard about the push for a more equitable cannabis industry, and Seattle, Washington leaders are making change.
Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell introduced three new bills to the Seattle City Council that would encourage more diverse inclusion in the city’s cannabis industry, announced on August 9. The proposals were developed in partnership with Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda as well as a pool of cannabis industry stakeholders and employees.
The proposed bills would allow the city to take “tangible steps to improve fairness and opportunity” in the cannabis industry, as Washington begins to allocate social equity cannabis licenses across the state.
“For a thriving Seattle economy, every worker and business deserve[s] safety and the opportunity to learn, grow, and prosper,” Mayor Harrell said in a press release. “As the cannabis industry continues to develop, we must course correct and support the communities who too often have been left behind. Equity in this industry means safe working conditions and fair treatment for workers, store ownership that includes the communities most impacted by the war on drugs, and a commitment to fairness, innovation, and opportunity.”
The suite of bills would create a city-level social equity license, intended to reduce barriers toward opening cannabis stores for underrepresented communities and those most impacted by the War on Drugs. They would lay down the groundwork for future cannabis-related businesses, in collaboration with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, to also issue licenses through a social equity framework.
The legislation would require a 90-day retention of store workforce when ownership changes—similar to protections created for hotel workers in 2019. They would create a short-term cannabis advisory committee, selected in collaboration with City Council to collect input on cannabis equity and needs from workers, community members, and industry leaders. A needs assessment would be implemented to understand additional steps to make the industry more robust and sustainable for diverse communities.
The legislation would work in tandem with County and community efforts to further the work of expunging convictions for cannabis-related crimes prior to 2014. Finally, the legislation would develop a state and federal legislative agenda promoting cannabis equity, as well as safety improvements, capital investments, and access to banking services.
Mayor Harrell joined the Seattle City Council to call for the passage of the federal SAFE Banking Act to allow cannabis businesses to get access to banking.
“After years of [our] community asking for greater equity in the cannabis industry, this legislation represents an initial step in the right direction towards creating local equity applications, improving workforce standards, and focusing on safety for workers in the cannabis industry. Thank you, to the broad coalition led by cannabis industry workers and businesses who have been calling for reforms in this industry, and for not letting up. I look forward to continuing to work with you and the Mayor’s office to make these first policy steps impactful, and to building on this approach to create greater cannabis equity to address the harms caused by the war on drugs and past harmful policies.”
The legislation was also supported by union members from UFCW 3000. “This legislation is an important first step to gain vital protections for cannabis workers,” said Joe Mizrahi, Secretary-Treasurer of UFCW 3000. “Essential cannabis workers in UFCW 3000 look forward to working with the Mayor’s office and City Council, with a broad coalition of community stakeholders, to build on this foundation in the years to come.”