Washington State Fails to Pass Cannabis Industry Social Equity Bill

Lawmakers in the Washington House on Tuesday failed to pass a bill to improve the state’s cannabis social equity considerations.

Full story after the jump.

A Washington bill to increase social equity in the state’s cannabis industry failed to clear the House on Tuesday, The Chronicle reports. The bill had lost the support from several Democratic lawmakers over issues related to how many licenses would be issued, concerns with the bill’s grant and loan requirements, zoning law issues, and the elimination of the buffer requirements for cannabis retailers.

The substitute version of the bill that was advanced to the House removed the phrase “racial minorities” from the social equity definition, cut the social equity grant and low-interest loan fund from $22.5 million to $3 million – but kept the $1.1 million technical assistance program to help applicants navigate the cannabis licensing process – and removed one of the key features of the bill that would have created new licenses specifically for social equity applicants through 2029.

The bill rejected by lawmakers also removed a mobility clause that supporters said was key in equitably distributing the 39 retail licenses the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board currently has available. However, of those licenses, 20 are in jurisdictions that do not currently allow cannabis operations, and 17 are in parts of Washington where the markets are likely unprofitable, the report says.

“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 Rep. Pat Sullivan told The Chronicle.

Two other bills concerning racial equity and the cannabis industry passed both the House and Senate prior to Tuesday’s end of session, but neither were able to be heard by the other chamber.

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