Social Equity Update
When Governor Inslee signed E2SHB 2870 into law, a new chapter opened for Washington’s cannabis industry. Social equity legislation, introduced by Rep. Eric Pettigrew at the request of the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB), will take effect June 12, 2020. Future updates on the progress of implementation will be posted here, on the LCB website.
LCB has written a fact sheet that summarizes the provisions of the new law, which can be found here.
Legislative Task Force
The bill created a legislative task force with two purposes:
- To assist the LCB by providing guidance on how the program should be structured; and
- To make any recommendations the Task Force wants to offer for consideration by the Legislature and the Governor by way of further development or even future expansion of the program.
Currently, work is progressing on the appointment of Task Force members. The Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor are responsible for jointly making these appointments. LCB will be represented by one member of the 18-member task force.
Staff support for the task force will initially be provided by the Health Equity Council of the Governor’s Interagency Council on Health Disparities. The new office of equity, created under separate legislation enacted in 2020, will take on the responsibility of providing staff support to the task force when the office of equity requests such transfer.
LCB has held an initial meeting with the Department of Commerce, which has the important role of administering the competitive grant program included in the law to assist new licensees. Any major or substantive work on the grant program is expected to await guidance from the Task Force.
The LCB has begun establishing an internal work group of staff from various divisions within the agency that will offer a range of expertise toward implementation planning, including staff from the Licensing division, the director’s office, the Finance division, staff who work on rule development, among others.
LCB has also started exploring potential data sources that will be needed to implement one aspect of the new program. “Disproportionately Impacted Areas” must be identified in order to help determine who will be eligible to apply for a license. These areas are geographically small, such as zip code or census tract areas, that are high on measures specified in the law, including poverty, unemployment, participation rates in income-based federal and state programs, and high rates of enforcement of marijuana crimes.
The legislature calls for the task force to begin meeting by July 1, but in light of the pandemic and public health restrictions currently in place in Washington, the exact timing and format of Task Force meetings is yet to be determined.