‘We need reform’: Seattle councilmember highlights need for cannabis equity

Feb 21, 2022, 12:03 PM | Updated: 6:14 pm
Cannabis equity...
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Seattle Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda hosted a panel in the council’s finance committee last week, focused on promoting racial equity in the local cannabis industry.

10 years later, industry says Washington’s legal marijuana needs an update

As Mosqueda noted, “cannabis is a booming industry in Seattle,” with more than 60 stores selling over $185 million worth of cannabis products in 2021 alone. According to data presented in the committee, the median sales per month for a single cannabis retail shop last year was nearly $485,000, while the most profitable location sold an estimated $12 million worth of products over the course of the entire year.

“However, that wealth and access has not been equitable,” Mosqueda clarified.

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board estimates that just 3% of Washington’s cannabis shops are majority Black owned, while Seattle doesn’t have any that fit that description. While former Sonics star Shawn Kemp is the namesake of a recently-opened shop in Seattle, he only owns a 5% stake in the business.

Mosqueda further pointed out that communities of color were disproportionately targeted for marijuana-related arrests prior to legalization, despite roughly equal levels of use among all racial demographics. After marijuana was legalized, “Black people were largely left out of ownership opportunities,” she noted.

Mosqueda hopes to address that by following the lead of major cities in California, many of which have programs focused on “cannabis equity funding, training for cannabis workers, and social equity licenses.”

Study: Seattle one of few cities where cannabis use higher than cigarettes

In San Francisco, newly-registered cannabis firms are required to submit a plan detailing their commitment toward diversity goals. Sacramento has “explicit hiring requirements” baked into an incubator program, mandating that 30% of a firm’s workforce be “comprised of equity-eligible employees.”

For Seattle, Mosqueda highlighted a handful of community priorities, including investments in “advancement, career growth and ownership opportunities for Black, Indigenous and People of Color in the cannabis industry,” as well as increased training, benefits, and protections for workers.

“We need reform, redistribution, and restoration,” she proposed.

Mosqueda has yet to introduce specific legislation toward those goals, but expressed a hope to learn from other cities on the best way to move forward.

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‘We need reform’: Seattle councilmember highlights need for cannabis equity