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Don't see your question listed below? Email email@example.com or submit your own question. In addition, you can review the regularly updated Frequently Asked Questions by category below.
Submit Your Questions
The LCB is dedicated to providing resources and useful information for social equity applicants. Please send your questions or suggestions for information you would like to see on our site. We will respond directly to your inquiry and include frequently asked questions and responses on this page.
A phone number or email is required for a response. Click "submit" to send your question to the LCB Licensing team.
How do I apply to be a social equity applicant?
Applications are now open for the Social Equity program. Applicants need to apply via Business Licensing Service (BLS) from the Department of Revenue. Applicants will need a SecureAccess Washington (SAW) account in order to log in to the system. Please ensure your BLS account is up to date and paid. If payment is not received and approved by the application due date, the application will not be processed. Follow the steps on the Applicant Checklist to prepare.
Where do I submit my verification documents to the third party contractor?
After the license application window closes, applicants will receive an email invitation from Ponder Diversity Group to register for a portal where they will submit a second social equity application. This application will ask for supplemental documentation such as proof of address and their Social Equity Plan. Please check your email regularly, including your spam folder, to ensure you are able to access this portal.
I can't find the BLS application. Where is it?
You can log in to Business Licensing Services (BLS) here. You will need a SecureAccess Washington account to log in.
Is there a way to expedite my application?
The Secretary of State is experiencing a high volume of applications. Applicants can go in person to their office hours for same day service are Monday-Friday from 8am-4pm and their request will be processed same day. If they have already applied and are waiting for their UBI, they can ask for a status update using the email firstname.lastname@example.org and please ensure to add “LCB deadline” in the subject line. They can also pay an additional fee at the time of application with the Secretary of State to expedite their request.
In the BLS application, it asks for a location. What if I don't have a location yet?
The location in the BLS application is your home address. You do not need to have a location at this time, and there is no time limit to secure one.
What is the timeline for social equity applications?
Applications must be submitted within a designated application window. Applicants must meet the qualifications and submit their application during this time in order to be considered for a license. The rules team is bringing forward a rules proposal to extend the application deadline for social equity cannabis retail licenses from March 30, 2023 to April 27, 2023. This extension will be presented to the Board at its next regularly scheduled meeting on March 29, 2023.
Can I submit multiple applications?
No, applicants may only apply for a social equity license once.
Are these licenses available throughout the state?
No, there are specific counties where social equity licenses are available. Learn more about the available license allotments here.
When and how do I pick the county in which I want to operate my business?
You will pick the county when you submit the Ponder Diversity application through their online portal. Applicants who successfully submitted a BLS application will be emailed an invitation to this portal after the licensing application window closes.
Can I apply in a county other than where I live?
Yes, you can apply in any county where a license is available.
I see these licenses are available for specific counties. Can we also operate our business within city limits of the county we choose?
Yes, as long as the location is legal and compliant per the rules.
Can I apply in more than one county and rank my choices, such as first, second, third?
No, you can only apply for a license in one county.
Where can I find the open allotments map?
Information on open allotments and counties is available here.
What do I need to create a social equity plan?
The LCB will provide a structure for creating your business’ social equity plan. You can learn more on this page.
What is the fee for the Business Licensing Services (BLS) application?
The Department of Revenue's BLS application fee is $250. For more information, view the Technical Assistance Program course on the Social Equity Program.
What is the fee for the Social Equity application?
The Social Equity program application is free. For more information, view the Technical Assistance Program course on the Social Equity Program.
Who is eligible to be a social equity applicant?
Under the proposed rules, in order to be eligible for a social equity cannabis license, applicants must meet two of the three following qualifications:
- The applicant(s) must have lived in a disproportionately impacted area in Washington state for a minimum of five years between 1980 and 2010; or
- The applicant(s) or a family member of the applicant has been arrested or convicted of a cannabis offense; or
- The applicant(s)’ household income in the year prior to submitting the application was less than the median household income within the state of Washington as calculated by the United States Census Bureau.
You may read about the criteria and scoring system in the finalized rules available here.
Do I have to be a racial minority to get a social equity license?
Individuals of any race are welcome to apply for a social equity license, if they meet the requirements for social equity applicants as outlined above. You do not need to be a racial minority to apply for or receive a social equity license.
Why are arrests and convictions qualifiers for a social equity license?
The Washington State legislature recognized that cannabis prohibition laws were disproportionately enforced for decades and that the cumulative harms from this enforcement remain even today, the LCB is committed to supporting individuals and communities that may have been disproportionately convicted of crimes for a legal substance.
How were the qualifications for social equity applicants determined?
The Social Equity in Cannabis Task Force developed preliminary guidelines for social equity applicants. The LCB offered opportunities for stakeholders to review the drafts and offer feedback throughout the rulemaking process. View more information on the requirements for social equity applicants in the finalized rules.
Will my criminal history impact my ability to get a license?
During the application process, the LCB will look into all aspects of the business and the individuals applying. One of the requirements is the submission of a background check and fingerprints. You can view the WAC that outlines the background check process and specific details regarding convictions here.
I have a producer/processor license, can I apply as a social equity applicant?
No. Washington State law prohibits licensees from having both a producer/processor and a retail license.
Can I apply or be a retailer if I have ownership in a producer or processor?
No, you can’t be an owner of a producer or processor if you want to qualify for a cannabis retail license.
Why did the LCB hire a third party contractor to review and score social equity applications?
The Social Equity in Cannabis Task Force and the community recommended that the LCB hire a third party contractor, Ponder Diversity Group*, to review and score social equity applications.
Who decides whether my application meets the criteria for receiving a license?
A scoring rubric was developed and approved by the Board. The Ponder Diversity Group* will serve as a third party contractor, which will review, validate applicants’ qualifications, and score all the applications submitted.
Can I count multiple convictions, for myself or my family members, separately?
No, you can only meet the conviction criteria and score once.
Do I have to have a conviction, or does a cannabis arrest count?
Either an arrest or a conviction is a qualifying factor. Per the social equity rubric, points are given for a conviction.
My close relative (sibling/spouse, etc.) are applying together as majority owners on a social equity license. Can we use each other's points on the rubric for family member drug and cannabis offenses?
How do I know if I have lived in a Disproportionately Impacted Area (DIA)?
You can enter your address history on the DIA map here to learn whether it is in a disproportionately impacted area between 1980 and 2010.
How were Disproportionately Impacted Areas (DIAs) determined?
The DIAs were defined by the legislature. They include census tracts that were in the top 30% on all of the following indicators:
- High poverty rate;
- High rate of participation in income-based federal programs;
- High rate of unemployment; and
- High rate of convictions
Learn more about the DIAs here.
What can I use for proof for a current or old address?
In order to verify your eligibility as a social equity applicant, you must submit applicable documents to third-party contractor Ponder Diversity Group with your application. View a list of example verification documents here.
What is a social equity license?
The LCB has held in reserve over 40 licenses that were forfeited, cancelled, or revoked or were licenses that were never issued. Applicants who meet the eligibility qualifications and score the highest on the Social Equity rubric will have the opportunity to complete the licensing process.
I am a certificate title holder that meets the criteria for a social equity license. Am I eligible to apply under these rules?
Yes, current title certificate holders may apply for a social equity license. In addition, title certificate holders who meet the qualifications for a social equity license may move their license anywhere within the county where their title certificate is located. In order to qualify, the social equity title certificate holder must submit an application to reinstate their existing license through the Social Equity Program. You may only submit one social equity application. The third-party provider will work with you to determine whether you are applying to make your title certificate a social equity license, applying for a new social equity license, or both.
What is the process for receiving a social equity license?
After submitting a social equity application through the Department of Revenue’s business licensing online application system, third party contractor Ponder Diversity Group* will score all applications submitted during the 30-day window. Ponder Diversity Group will forward the applications to the LCB and the highest scoring applications will receive a preliminary letter of approval. In the case of a tie in a county, the LCB will hold a double blind lottery to select the final applicants to move forward with the LCB licensing process. After the final applicants are identified, they will work with an LCB Licensing Specialist to complete the licensing process.
How long does it take to get a license once I apply?
After an application is submitted, it will be reviewed by third party contractor Ponder Diversity Group.* If additional materials are needed, the applicant must provide the requested materials within 15 days. If the application is determined to be incomplete, the social equity applicant will be provided 14 days to complete their application. After the LCB receives the application scores from Ponder Diversity Group, the agency will work to award licenses to the top scoring applicants and notify all applicants of their application status.
What is the difference between an owner and an investor?
• Owner: Individuals who expect to receive income from the retail business. These individuals will be listed on the license.
• Investor: Individuals who provide supporting funds to the business. Investors only receive interest when paid back by the licensee.
What if I want to apply for my social equity license with an already established UBI/entity?
If you already have a UBI established with the Secretary of State, you are ready to apply when the window opens. You will use the UBI number for your business when prompted on the Social Equity application through BLS.
Will I be able to make changes to my business ownership structure after I submit an application?
No, you may not make ownership changes to an application after the application has been reviewed, scored, and prioritized by the third party contractor.
What is the Technical Assistance Program?
In collaboration with the Washington State Department of Commerce and MakeGreenGo, the Technical Assistance Program is a free resource available to anyone interested. Potential applicants may sign up and register for a free account and view 18 hours of video content, download worksheets, and learn more about basic business concepts with examples specific to the cannabis industry. Sign up for an account and log in here.
How do I become a mentor for social equity applicants?
Mentorship applications were due to the Washington State Department of Commerce on Nov. 28, 2022. Keep an eye on their website for more information.
I have input on the LCB’s plan for issuing social equity licenses. Do I have an opportunity to still give input?
While the opportunity for providing feedback on the current set of draft social equity rules closed at midnight on Sept. 14, 2022, the rulemaking team will continue to accept suggestions for future rules via:
Fax: (360) 664-9689; or
Mail: Rules Coordinator
Liquor and Cannabis Board
P.O. Box 43090
Olympia, WA 98504-3080
* = QPWB informed the LCB in late 2022 it was no longer providing government contract legal services. It has reassigned its responsibilities as Washington’s third-party reviewer to the Ponder Diversity Group. The Ponder Diversity Group consists entirely of the original QPWB attorneys and staff who have been preparing to serve as Washington’s independent application review and scoring team. The Ponder Diversity Group is a women and minority owned business enterprise.
Social Equity Glossary
With so many unfamiliar terms and acronyms, it can be confusing to try and navigate or understand what it means when trying to learn about and apply for a social equity license. This is a list of some common terms and acronyms used throughout the LCB’s social equity webpages. If there are additional things you think would be useful to add to this list, please email email@example.com.
Business Licensing Services (BLS)
A program run through the Department of Revenue. This is the online application portal through which applicants will apply for a social equity license.
Cannabis Business Academy
Free educational courses containing videos and worksheets developed by MakeGreenGo! for social equity applicants.
Disproportionately Impacted Area (DIA)
A geographical location in Washington State determined to have been heavily impacted by the War on Drugs.
Geographic Information System (GIS) map
A dynamic, customizable map to show multiple data points in an area. The DIA map will use this technology to allow users to pinpoint the area in which they would like to apply for a license.
The organization contracted with the LCB and Department of Commerce to collaborate on educational content for potential social equity licensees.
Revised Code of Washington (RCW)
A compilation of all Washington State laws.
Washington Administrative Code (WAC)
A compilation of all rules and regulations created by Washington State agencies.