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WA Liquor and Cannabis Board changing rules to encourage minority ownership

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(The Center Square) – The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board is amending rules for diversity ownership when it comes to pot shops.

The idea is to encourage minority ownership and to remove barriers to licensing, including criminal history related to drug use or incarceration.

That starts with changing the rubric used to determine scoring for social equity applicants seeking licenses to own and operate marijuana retail shops.

The Cannabis Social Equity Program was born out of a 2020 state law sponsored by former Seattle Democratic Rep. Eric Pettigrew.

During a February 2020 public hearing, Pettigrew told members of the House Commerce and Gaming Committee that the measure could potentially lead to a different distribution of wealth.

“Marijuana for years has incarcerated a number of people disproportionally because they were distributing this product and now that it’s legal, suddenly it is out of reach for them to actually legally distribute it and benefit from that,” said Pettigrew, who was appointed in 2023 by Gov. Jay Inslee to be the director of the Washington State Lottery Commission.

Today, members of the WSLCB were briefed on suggested changes to the rubric that scores minority license applicants, with the highest scores moving to the front of the line for approval.

Among the changes they plan to make is amending language about marijuana convictions, to consider convictions for all drugs.

The rubric was implemented as a scoring tool to prioritize those most impacted by the war on drugs.

Revisions for the next round of social equity applicants are based on feedback from applicants in the first round.

“Only 73 of the applicants (nearly 500 applicants in all) participated in the survey and these are proposed changes that have not been finalized,” said Aaron Washington, Program Manager for Social Equity in Cannabis.

Slides showing proposed changes to the scoring rubric indicate WSLCB would now give 60 points for any applicant convicted of a drug offense, not just cannabis, but any drug.

It would give 30 points for an applicant who has a family member convicted of a drug offense.

Two categories from the current rubric would be deleted. Those concern a family member having been incarcerated and the inability to rent or purchase a home because of prior convictions.

“Applicants expressed it was hard or impossible to get documents to support the category,” said Washington.

The changes would also add 15 points for an applicant who previously met qualifications but did not receive a license.

The Liquor and Cannabis Board also heard an update on recently passed legislation related to medical cannabis.

Daniel Jacobs, Policy and Rules Coordinator for WSLCB told members marijuana retailers will now have to post signage about hours when medical marijuana patients or those seeking a medical marijuana endorsement can meet with a consultant.

“Whenever a store posts their hours, they have to also post their cannabis consultant hours. The current situation that we’ve heard from people is they don’t know when a consultant is available. We are proposing that stores can either say these are the hours a consultant is available or this is the window an appointment is available by,” said Jacob.

In the state of Washington, getting a medical marijuana card requires a doctor’s approval for a number of different ailments or conditions, and then an endorsement card from a medically endorsed marijuana retailer.

According to the WA Department of Health, more than 128,000 people have been issued a medical marijuana endorsement in this state.

The state allows both medical and adult-use dispensaries to be located within its borders. Of all licensed cannabis retailers, 43% hold a medical endorsement, according to DOH.

The WSLCB has upcoming meetings regarding the pending rule changes which can be viewed at lcb.wa.gov/laws/laws-and-rules.

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