Rantz: Seattle’s equity movement punishes white men to push race-based marijuana licenses

Aug 15, 2022, 5:50 PM
(Photo by Gilles Mingasson/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Gilles Mingasson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gilles Mingasson/Getty Images)

The Seattle City Council and Mayor are upset that too many “cannabis businesses are owned primarily by White men.” They have a plan to tackle the issue in the name of “cannabis equity.”

The council says white men operate 87% of the city’s pot shops. This stat is supposedly proof of institutional racism. Consequently, the city launched a Racial Equity Toolkit (RET) to “address disproportionate ownership of Seattle cannabis businesses and redress some of the harms caused by the racially unequal enforcement of prior cannabis laws.”

Through a suite of so-called cannabis equity bills, the city establishes race-based criteria to create more black-owned pot shops. They recognize some of their ideas are racist and illegal affirmative action. Now, they’re looking for ways around the law.

Cannabis Equity: the new left-wing, social justice invention

To achieve cannabis equity, city leaders have redefined “equity” to mean “equal outcomes.”

Since every entrepreneur, regardless of race, has equal access to resources to build a business, the council has decided to socially engineer a more diversified pot shop ownership. But it’s specific to one race.

Though Asians (14.9%) represent Seattle’s most significant racial minority, the city hopes for more black-owned pot shops. While the black population is just 6.8%, the council notes black people were disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs. The council says these arrests and convictions caused “inter-generational poverty, housing insecurity, loss of education and employment opportunities, disruption of family structures, and other burdens.” The topic is so triggering that they refuse to say “marijuana,” claiming it’s a term steeped in white supremacy.

The city used the RET to meet its goals. Seattle defines this as “a process and a set of questions to guide the development, implementation, and evaluation of policies, initiatives, programs, and budget issues to address the impacts on racial equity.”

Far from evening the playing field, the RET is meant to manipulate it.

Too many white people: bills explained

Mayor Bruce Harrell and far-left councilwoman Teresa Mosqueda, with the help of left-wing community activists, announced a trio of bills that expand recently passed state legislation on the same issue. The legislation works within the framework set by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, which regulates the number of licenses to operate pot shops.

Council Bill 120391 does little more than set a plan for the next legislative year.

The bill says the Mayor’s Office will “use summer legal interns to participate in and partner with ongoing regional efforts to work on expungement of cannabis convictions handed down prior to 2014.”

It will collect “demographic information about workers currently employed in Seattle’s cannabis industry” to develop new ideas to diversify the workforce and help determine how much the city should fund race-based training to help non-white Seattleites become pot shop owners.

Council Bill 120392 impacts marijuana license fees.

Business owners that are “social equity applicants” — a condescending term defined to almost exclusively apply to black people — would not have to pay for their marijuana license. This change gives “the greatest chances of success in entering the legal cannabis industry in Seattle,” according to the bill. Primarily white people will pay the $3,500 fee.

Finally, Council Bill 120393 covers pot shop employee retention and protection.

The bill will “encourage” pot shops to commit 10% of their staff to be convicted drug dealers or other drug criminals. It creates a new set of worker’s rights, mainly when a new owner acquires a pot shop. The new owners must offer all employees a job under the new business. They will keep those jobs for at least 90 days. If layoffs occur, they cannot be done based on merit, but based on seniority. And they can only happen if the employer “determines that fewer cannabis employees were required than by the outgoing cannabis employer.”

The city knows much of this is illegal

The council and Mayor’s office know that race-based licensing is illegal. You cannot give preferential treatment to one racial group over another. It’s why even Washington voters so consistently reject affirmative action.

To get around a potential lawsuit, the city plans to adopt precise language that effectively discriminates against non-black residents while skirting the line of legality.

To be considered a “social equity applicant” for a marijuana license, your business must be in a “disproportionately impacted area.” It’s defined by the city (based on state definitions) in a way that only impacts black communities:

1. The area has a high poverty rate;
2. The area has a high rate of participation in income-based federal or state programs;
3. The area has a high rate of unemployment; and
4. The area has a high rate of arrest, conviction, or incarceration related to the sale, possession, use,
cultivation, manufacture, or transport of cannabis.

The totality of the definition would wholly disqualify Asian, white, and Native American applicants from applying. It likely also disqualifies Latinos. This is intentional.

While the city goes out of its way not to single out one racial group for preferential treatment, it did leave a recommendation to offer “grants/loans and technical assistance to black cannabis businesses.” White, Latino, Asian, or Native American business owners are left out.

Cannabis equity hurts more people

It’s not the role of the government to socially engineer diversity in any industry. Since when is it essential to have an industry reflect the diversity of the population it serves? Would the council demand more white-owned or Asian-owned businesses if black business owners ran 87% of the pot shops? Of course not.

Not everything must be seen through a social justice lens. But it’s 2022 in Seattle, and everything is racist. Thus, city leaders must frame every issue around race, inventing crusades along the way.

There’s zero evidence that black people are being intentionally pushed out of the marijuana industry. A lack of representation doesn’t equal illegal discrimination. It’s a lazy left-wing argument to point to “a legacy of racism” to make a point that you can’t prove.

And while marijuana-related arrests are nearly non-existent now, the black community may still suffer.

According to a study in JAMA, legalization means black and Latino communities “may be more likely than White populations to experience negative consequences of legalization, including increased frequent cannabis use and CUD [cannabis use disorder].” The authors say this could be due to “locating dispensaries (which have been tied to increased CUD) in neighborhoods with a majority racial or ethnic minority population.”

Seattle’s cannabis equity plan would likely see more pot shops in black communities. The city’s pot shops are already disproportionately placed in neighborhoods with high black and Latino Seattleites.

While I generally support one’s right to get high responsibly, should they choose, it’s a dangerous message to push any community into getting high.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3–6 pm on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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Rantz: Seattle’s equity movement punishes white men to push race-based marijuana licenses