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Seattle Mayor Introduces Bills to Enhance Equity in Cannabis Industry

The push for an equitable cannabis market was a topic that people raised, and Seattle leaders have made progress.

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell introduced three new bills to the Seattle City Council that would encourage more diverse inclusion in the city’s cannabis industry, announced on August 9. These proposals were created in collaboration with Teresa Mosqueda, a Councilmember and a group of employees from the cannabis industry.

The proposed bills would allow the city to take “tangible steps to improve fairness and opportunity” in the cannabis industry, as Washington begins to allocate social equity cannabis licenses across the state.

“For a thriving Seattle economy, every worker and business deserve[s] safety and the opportunity to learn, grow, and prosper,” Mayor Harrell said in a press release. “As the cannabis industry continues to develop, we must course correct and support the communities who too often have been left behind. Equity in this industry means safe working conditions and fair treatment for workers, store ownership that includes the communities most impacted by the war on drugs, and a commitment to fairness, innovation, and opportunity.”

These bills create a social equity license at the city level, which is designed to remove barriers that prevent cannabis shops from being opened in communities least represented and most directly affected by The War on Drugs. In collaboration with Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board they would create the foundation for cannabis-related businesses in the future.

The legislation would require a 90-day retention of store workforce when ownership changes—similar to protections created for hotel workers in 2019. The City Council would establish a temporary cannabis advisory committee to gather input from the community, workers and leaders in order to improve cannabis equity. An industry needs assessment would be performed to determine additional steps that could make the sector more resilient and sustainable for different communities.

This legislation will work with County and local efforts in order to help the process of expunging cannabis-related convictions prior to 2014. Finaly, the legislation would create both a federal, state, and local legislative agenda that promotes cannabis equity and safety, along with capital investment and banking access.

Mayor Harrell joined with the Seattle City Council in calling for passage of federal SAFE Banking Act, which will allow cannabis-related businesses access to banks.

“After years of [our]This legislation is a first step towards creating equity within the local cannabis sector, improving worker standards and safety, as well as establishing local equity applications. I am grateful for the support of numerous businesses and workers in the cannabis industry who are calling for reforms. I look forward to continuing to work with you and the Mayor’s office to make these first policy steps impactful, and to building on this approach to create greater cannabis equity to address the harms caused by the war on drugs and past harmful policies.”

UFCW 3000 union members also supported the legislation. “This legislation is an important first step to gain vital protections for cannabis workers,” said Joe Mizrahi, Secretary-Treasurer of UFCW 3000. “Essential cannabis workers in UFCW 3000 look forward to working with the Mayor’s office and City Council, with a broad coalition of community stakeholders, to build on this foundation in the years to come.”