OLYMPIA — A bill to extend and amend the original Social Equity in Cannabis Program was signed into law Monday. SB 5080, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), extends the Social Equity in Cannabis Program until July 1, 2032, and modifies the licenses that the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) may issue or reissue under the program. It waives annual fees, and provides a one-time, one-license annual fee reimbursement to current cannabis licensees who submit a social equity plan to LCB.
Black people and other people of color are currently underrepresented in ownership of cannabis businesses in Washington state, and this legislation will address this inequity.
“Building pathways of opportunity and flexibility for people of color disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs is not only a moral imperative, but a crucial step towards a more just and equitable society,” Saldaña said. “We heal the harms of the past by our commitment to action and change today.”
State data reveals that the vast majority of Washington’s cannabis business owners are white, and only 4% of the state’s retail cannabis licenses went to Black applicants. This bill helps create a more inclusive cannabis licensing program for Black and brown business owners in Washington.
The bill also amends the definitions of “disproportionately impacted area,” “social equity applicant,” and “social equity plan” in the program, and modifies the time period for cannabis licensees to qualify for a social equity technical assistance grant. It enables additional retail stores to be established over time, giving social equity licensees more flexibility in choosing a location, while also preserving local control over zoning and outlet density.