How Seattle’s mayor plans to increase the number of Black-owned pot shops

Aug 10, 2022, 1:49 PM
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

While U.S. census data shows that approximately two-thirds of Washington’s population is white, 85% of marijuana growing and processing businesses in the state are majority white-owned, according to reports from the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board. For marijuana retail shops, 81% have majority-white ownership.

Black people have a majority stake in only 1% of the state’s cannabis producing and processing businesses.

“African Americans were targeted, prosecuted, and jailed disproportionately for marijuana during the war on drugs,” said Gee Scott, co-host of the Gee and Ursula Show. “Now that marijuana sales are legal, black folks are largely left out in a lucrative industry.”

Mayor Bruce Harrell put forward a suite of bills yesterday intended to address equity in the cannabis industry by helping foster a more diverse industry.

Developed in partnership with Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda alongside cannabis industry stakeholders and employees, the bills would take necessary early steps toward cannabis equity efforts.

“The fact is, some people are better positioned to take advantage of the opportunity. Some people were better resourced, better organized, had lobbyists working the angles to get into the processing and production side,” Harrell said on the Gee and Ursula Show. “We were not at all intentional on the front end on addressing the issue. So when you’re not intentional about addressing inequity, inequities can occur. So you know, the ball was dropped, and now we will play catch-up ball.”

If passed, the bills would require the creation of a city-level social equity license, a 90-day retention of store workforce when ownership changes, a short-term cannabis advisory committee, and the development of a state and federal legislative agenda promoting cannabis equity, as well as safety improvements, capital investments, and access to banking services.

Earlier this year, Mayor Harrell initiated 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.

State suggests cashless apps for cannabis stores to avoid robbery

“Federally, it’s just ripe for criminal activity in terms of people realizing there’s cash laying around. We have to put in the right safeguards,” Harrell said. “It starts with that kind of policy, such that we don’t have these large sums of cash sitting around and again, we’ll do everything possible to protect the employees.”

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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How Seattle’s mayor plans to increase the number of Black-owned pot shops