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Washington governor signs bill to expand social justice licenses

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Washington will add dozens of retail cannabis stores to its existing stores adult use market in the next decade after the state’s governor signed a bill on Monday.

The measure, signed by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, aims to strengthen the social justice component of the state’s legal marijuana program.

Under the terms of the new law, the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board is scheduled to issue “up to 52 retail cannabis licenses” between January 1, 2024, and July 1, 2032 to individuals who qualify for the Social Justice Program.

According to Axios, that’s “about a 10% increase from the current number of licensed pot stores, which has been capped at 556 statewide since 2016.”

According to the official summary of the bill, An individual who qualifies for the Social Justice Program is a person who: “has at least 51 percent ownership and control by one or more individuals who have resided in DIA for a period of time specified in the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) rules after consultation with other specified entities; owns at least 51 percent ownership and control by at least one individual who has been convicted of a cannabis offense, a drug offense, or is a family member of such an individual; or meets the criteria specified in the LCB Rules after consultation with other specified entities.”

The bill also “waives annual fees, provides reimbursement of one-time annual fees and one-license to existing cannabis licensees who provide a Social Justice Plan to [the Liquor and Cannabis Board]”,” According to a press release of Democratic lawmakers.

“Building pathways of opportunity and resilience for people of color who have been disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs is not only a moral imperative, but a critical step toward a more just and equitable society,” He said The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Senator Rebecca Saldana. “We heal the damage of the past through our commitment to action and change today.”

Democratic lawmakers in Washington say the state’s data “reveals that the vast majority of cannabis business owners in Washington are white, and only 4% of licenses to sell cannabis in the state have gone to black applicants,” and that the bill “helps create more inclusive licensing.” “For Cannabis. A Program for Black and Black Business Owners in Washington”.

The bill also amends the definitions of “disproportionately affected area,” “social justice seeker,” and “social justice plan” in the program, and amends the time period for cannabis licensees to qualify for a Social Justice Technical Assistance grant. additional retail stores over time, giving social equity licensees more flexibility in site selection, while also maintaining local control over zoning and outlet density.

Inslee, who announced this week that he will not run for a fourth term in next year’s gubernatorial election, said he will call a special legislative session focused on “passing a new drug possession law.”

The special session is scheduled for May 16.

The regular legislative session ended on April 23, before lawmakers there could pass a new drug possession law, which was necessary after “the Washington Supreme Court struck down the state’s drug possession law in 2021, ruling it unconstitutional,” According to Washington Public Radio station KUOW.

Lawmakers have put in place a temporary fix that makes drug possession a misdemeanor. That measure, known as the Blake Fix, is set to expire over the summer, the station reported.

Inslee said he and his office aides “meet with lawmakers from all four caucuses and I’m very optimistic about reaching an agreement that can pass both chambers.”

“Cities and counties are eager to see statewide policy that balances accountability and treatment, and I think we can pass a bipartisan bill that does just that. The details are still being negotiated, but caucus leaders share a desire to pass the bill. I think starting the clock at 16 May will set us on the path to getting the job done this month.” statement Tuesday.

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