Washington State Lawmakers Pass Cannabis Social Equity Bill

State lawmakers passed a bill last week to bring a social equity program to Washington’s cannabis industry, eight years after voters approved a ballot initiative that legalized the recreational use and sale of marijuana. The measure, House Bill 2870 (HB 2870), now awaits action from Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee.

If Inslee signs HB 2870, a task force would be created to form the state’s Marijuana Social Equity Program. The new program would allow regulators with the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) to award canceled, revoked, and forfeited licenses for cannabis businesses to members of communities disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.

The bill was passed on March 9 in the Washington Senate by a vote of 28 to 20. The state House of Representatives voted 57 to 40 to approve the measure as amended by the Senate the following day. The House originally passed an earlier version of the bill on February 16.

Legalization Initiative Lacked Social Equity Provisions

Rick Garza, the director of the LCB, said the bill is designed to address social equity issues that were not addressed by the initiative passed by voters in 2012.

“Initiative 502 missed an opportunity to incorporate a focus on social

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