Washington Senate Approves Legislation that Allows Regulators to Bolster Social Equity in Cannabis Licensing

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The Washington Senate approved legislation March 9 that would allow regulators to bolster social equity in its cannabis licensing process, according to The Spokesman-Review.

The bill, approved by the Senate in a 28-20 vote, would allow the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) to award previously revoked or canceled cannabis retail licenses to social equity applicants, which are defined as minority applicants who own at least 51% of a cannabis dispensary business, the news outlet reported.

The legislation requires applicants to submit a “Social Equity Plan,” which would outline their business goals, experience with the enforcement of cannabis laws, plans to work with organizations impacted by law enforcement and reasons why they deserve a retail license, according to The Spokesman-Review.

The bill also establishes a grant program through the Washington Department of Commerce, the news outlet reported. Applicants awarded grants could use the funds to cover the costs associated with the licensing process, financial management and compliance training, and mentor programs.

Sen. Curtis King has added an amendment to the legislation that would mandate that the license fees for social equity applicants are not lower than the state’s regular licensing fees to ensure equal treatment of all applicants, according to The Spokesman-Review.

The legislation has been sent to the House, the news outlet reported, which has a March 12 deadline to act on the bill. The House approved an earlier version of the bill last month.

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