Mayor Harrell Introduces Suite of Bills to Improve Cannabis Equity

Mayor Harrell: Three bills developed in partnership with Council, industry stakeholders, and workers are “Critical first steps toward improving equity and a clear commitment to a One Seattle approach.”

Seattle – Today, Mayor Bruce Harrell put forward a suite of bills intended to address equity in the cannabis industry by helping foster a more diverse industry and supporting cannabis store workers. Developed in partnership with Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda and cannabis industry stakeholders and employees, the bills would take necessary early steps toward cannabis equity efforts. 

“For a thriving Seattle economy, every worker and business deserve safety and the opportunity to learn, grow, and prosper,” said Mayor Harrell. “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.” 

The package submitted to Council includes three bills, which take immediate actions and also put in place structures for long-term solutions. The bills, if passed, would require the following efforts: 

  • Creation of a City-level social equity license, intended to reduce barriers toward opening cannabis stores for underrepresented communities and those most impacted by the war on drugs. 
  • Laying the groundwork for future cannabis-related businesses, in collaboration with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, to also issue licenses through a social equity framework. Ensuring transparency to employees around ownership of cannabis store business licenses holders.  
  • Requiring a 90-day retention of store workforce when ownership changes, similar to protections created for hotel workers in 2019. 
  • Creation of a short-term cannabis advisory committee, selected in collaboration with City Council to collect input on cannabis equity and needs from workers, community members, and industry leaders.  
  • Implementation of a needs assessment to understand additional steps to make the industry more robust and sustainable for diverse communities. 
  • Collaboration with County and community efforts to further the work of expunging convictions for cannabis-related crimes prior to 2014.  
  • Development of a state and federal legislative agenda promoting cannabis equity, as well as safety improvements, capital investments, and access to banking services.  

Mayor Harrell said, “While these policies alone cannot solve generations of injustice, they are critical first steps and a clear commitment to a One Seattle approach, where we make progress through partnership, working with state and federal leaders, industry stakeholders, and store workers to continue moving forward.” 

While cannabis licenses are regulated and distributed at the state level, the proposed legislation allows the City to take tangible steps to improve fairness and opportunity in the industry both now and as additional licenses are awarded. As the state begins to allocate social equity cannabis licenses across Washington, the proposed legislation would ensure Seattle is situated to best enhance local equity efforts. 

Earlier this year, Mayor Harrell joined the City Council in calling for passage of the federal SAFE Banking Act to help address safety concerns at cannabis stores, which are currently required to carry cash without an option to access online banking. 

WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING 

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8 – Citywide) 

“After years of community asking for greater equity in the cannabis industry, this legislation represents an initial step in the right direction towards creating local equity applications, improving workforce standards, and focusing on safety for workers in the cannabis industry. Thank you, to the broad coalition led by cannabis industry workers and businesses who have been calling for reforms in this industry, and for not letting up. 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.” 

Adan Espino Jr, Executive Director, Craft Cannabis Coalition, an association of over 70 cannabis retailers and allied producers statewide, including half of Seattle cannabis retail stores. 

“Cannabis retail small businesses across Seattle have greatly appreciated the opportunity to work closely and productively with Mayor Harrell and the City Council on these ordinances tackling social equity in the cannabis industry. We look forward to continuing to engage thoughtfully and collaboratively in the City’s cannabis equity effort as it develops, alongside discussion of other pressing issues facing the cannabis small businesses, such as security concerns.” 

Joe Mizrahi, Secretary-Treasurer, UFCW 3000

“This legislation is an important first step to gain vital protections for cannabis workers. 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.”