WA Task Force on Social Equity in Cannabis - Public Meeting
(December 14, 2020)

Monday December 14, 2020 8:30 AM - 12:30 PM Observed
Seal of the State of Washington

The Washington State Legislative Task Force on Social Equity in Cannabis (WA SECTF) was established during the 2020 legislative session as part of HB 2870 and expanded in 2021 through HB 1443. The purpose of the task force is to make recommendations to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) including but not limited to establishing a social equity program for the issuance and reissuance of existing retail marijuana licenses, and to advise the Governor and the Legislature on policies that would facilitate development of a marijuana social equity program. The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House were responsible for appointing 20 members to the task force.

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Observations

A history of racial discrimination in the American drug war and Washington state’s legal industry was described by a task force member, guest presenter, and commenters from inside and outside the industry.

Here are some observations from the Monday December 14th Washington State Legislative Task Force on Social Equity in Cannabis (WA Task Force on Social Equity in Cannabis) public meeting. In this summary, we focus and expand on a “History of Racism in Cannabis Policy and Enforcement” presented to task force members.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • Task force members, guests, and commenters unpacked some of the History of Racism in Cannabis Policy and Enforcement.
    • Task force Co-Chair Paula Sardinas began by speaking to the importance of understanding the “history of racism in cannabis prohibition and their lasting impacts that we see today.” She expected the conversation would be “passionate” and asked everyone to “actively listen” (audio - 1m). 
      • Read the Staff Summary of Background Information on Arrest Inequities provided to task force members.
      • Sardinas offered detailed testimony on November 30th about her motivation in supporting social equity at WSLCB as CAAA had seen “structural racism as the underpinning of how a lot of agencies and policies work in Washington State.” WSLCB had “become a suspect” of this manner of discrimination but seemed to be “willing to do the right thing when given the tool,” she said (audio - 15m, video).
    • Jason Clark, a Credible Messenger Justice Center Equity and Justice Advocate (audio - 3m, audio - 15m, Presentation). Clark said he “grew up in poverty” and part of his presentation would cover “the way we’ve been impacted by the war on drugs.” He had experienced expulsion from school and incarceration at age 18 after selling drugs as a way to “change the trajectory of my financial future.” Even after serving his sentence, Clark saw “that connection to the criminal justice system proved to be a barrier for me.” His work with Credible Messenger broadly dealt with “capacity building and technical assistance for different leaders who’ve been impacted by systems.”
    • Clark presented on:
      • “Historical context...specifically around the impacts on Black and Brown communities.”
      • “The impact of diversity and ownership.”
      • “Some successful program examples and the barriers that they’ve faced.”
      • A “review on data and enforcement.”
    • Clark framed his presentation with an award winning video by Jay-Z and the Drug Policy Alliance which outlined how the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush “doubled down on the war on drugs,” significantly incentivizing drug sentencing and funding prison expansion to accommodate the resulting offenders through policies like the Rockefeller Drug Laws in New York. The American prison population “grew more than 900%” largely from Black and Hispanic communities. A recent trend towards legalization made similar activities to grow or sell cannabis “celebrated” in some states even as “most states still disproportionately hand out mandatory sentences to Black and Latinos with drug cases.” Legal states had seen “venture capitalists migrate to these states...but former felons can’t open a dispensary” and records in New York City---which had decriminalized cannabis possession in 2014---showed that disproportionality in possession citations endured, according to the video.
    • Clark asserted that those impacted by cannabis prohibition should be included in Washington State’s legal industry “in an equitable fashion” as he highlighted signs of economic fallout felt in communities undergoing disproportionate enforcement. He stated that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) was a prime example of inequity being perpetuated by policy choices, noting that his grandparents' home in Detroit purchased through FHA in 1949 “isn’t worth a dime more” than the original value of $11,000. The absence of equity had other “disparate connections to systems,” Clark indicated, such as education and employment opportunities, and those without these avenues for growth “are more likely to be incarcerated.”
    • However, Clark suggested task force members had an opportunity to remedy one area of unequal treatment by enabling cannabis equity license applicants to be “strategically mentored through capacity-building and developed into” successful business owners.
    • Considering “diversity in ownership,” Clark told task force members to review the presentation notes he’d prepared for Washington-specific data on cannabis arrests, as the arrests were “incredibly disparate” against Black and Hispanic populations. Amongst owners of cannabis retail licenses, he noted “we see that same inequity” where more licenses were owned by White men as compared to their proportion of the state population.
    • Beyond a stake in the cannabis industry, Clark asked “what about Black and Brown populations impacted by the war on drugs?” He noted that the cannabis market was forecast to hit $75 billion by 2030 and communities which had disproportionately suffered under prohibition wouldn’t experience true equity until policies “reach into the communities that have been impacted by incarceration based off of the war on drugs and especially cannabis sales.”
    • Turning to the WSLCB implementation of a social equity program, Clark said Washington should “pay attention to what’s happened in other states” on social equity in order “to develop something that can...create a standard of success.” He reviewed several equity programs in California cities:
      • In Oakland, among the first municipalities to prioritize equity, Clark indicated that the City hadn’t achieved the desired impact on their cannabis sector to date.
      • In Sacramento, the City’s equity program had resulted in several businesses being approved in recent months, Clark reported. That program didn’t consider “applicant resources” in its evaluation, another factor which worked against applicants in areas harmed by cannabis prohibition, Clark explained. Despite good intentions, “less than five of” 29 new businesses were from communities of color, “and none of them were Black communities,” he said. While Sacremento’s program “applied the right mixture of capacity building resources, it’s obvious they failed in the equity as a program outcome for their communities.”
      • Other jurisdictions with equity programs enacted or under development included Denver, Colorado and the State of New Jersey.
    • Christopher Poulos, Washington Statewide Reentry Council Executive Director and task force member representing the Washington State Department of Commerce (audio - 9m, audio - 4m). Poulos said his input came as “a formerly incarcerated person” and law professor who had taught a class on drug war history “going back through the 1800s to today” which covered “how cannabis prohibition was developed” and the ensuing impact “on Black and Brown communities.”
      • Poulos spoke to his history as a cannabis felon who subsequently graduated from law school before starting to “represent youth facing criminal charges.” He found that the individuals he represented on drug charges were invariably “Black, Brown, or from generational poverty, or all of the above.” From this, Poulos had come to know that “laws are simply not enforced the same way across the board.”
      • Going back over a century earlier, Poulos said that even after the abolition of slavery in the U.S. “not being employed could get you arrested” which led to “exclusion from voting” and other rights and privileges, meaning “the continued control of Black and Brown people” through public policy. He commented that Harry Anslinger, an early federal official widely called America’s first Drug Czar, used racism frequently and unapologetically in advancing and enforcing drug prohibition.
      • While the U.S. had a “public health approach” to drug use at the beginning of the 20th century, Poulos noted, “all of that changed and this was not accidental this was a very targeted, racist system that began way before [President Richard] Nixon’s or Reagan’s war on drugs.” He pointed out that America’s drug war included “alcohol prohibition, drug prohibition, the crack epidemic versus how we’re now treating the opioid epidemic.” As the latter had a wealthier, Whiter user demographic “now suddenly there’s an interest in the public health approach that we never saw before.”
      • Poulos then quoted senior Nixon adviser John Ehrlichman, who said in 1994, “we knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.
      • Poulos remarked that a message that “drugs are bad, just don’t do them” was often tempered by individuals’ experience “with the policies” of drug prohibition. While one could say “the war on drugs has failed,” a fuller study of history led to a realization that “there was never actually a war on drugs, there was only a war on people, and that war targeted” communities of color “and the poor.” He said policies like stop and frisk were “simply not implemented in affluent White communities, or even White communities generally.” The resulting “disparate enforcement techniques” became self-fulfilling criminal statistics used to rationalize even stronger policing, Poulos explained. “We’re not over the hurdle,” on confronting racist drug enforcement practices “by any means,” he cautioned.
      • Read Poulos’ research paper, The Criminalization of Addiction: Privilege and Recovery. He was unanimously re-appointed to lead the Reentry Council on September 30th.
    • Poulos subsequently stated that WSLCB rules on criminal history checks for applicants “targeted and impacted...the people who are very most impacted” by disparate enforcement of cannabis prohibition resulting in them being “pretty much excluded” from the legal industry “for a minimum of ten years.” Poulos believed that to “even say that we’re working on this” meant that opportunities for those with criminal records to apply successfully had to be addressed “head on.” Clark called attention to ban the box legislation to remove disclosure of an individual’s criminal history from employment applications as being one way to “focus on the capacity-building of people who’ve been impacted” by the criminal justice system.
    • Sardinas found their presentation “powerful” and thanked both for memorializing “in your document what the community has been saying for years.” She then opened the event up to comments from attendees.
    • Baljit Bassey (audio - 6m). Bassey reported that he’d twice applied for a cannabis license and “had trouble” because sources of capital for his business were limited, as were available locations for a licensed premise. The process led to “depression and substance use” for him as well as an arrest “and losing the shop” before ever opening. Bassey “ended up with nothing” and hoped his experience could illustrate problems with “how the structure is laid out.” Sardinas asked him to send his comments in writing due to connection difficulties and suggest anything “that would have helped” him during prior application attempts.
    • Peter Manning Black Excellence in Cannabis (BEC) Co-Founder (audio - 6m). One thing Manning wanted the task force to “look at is why we are all here.” He said he and BEC Co-Founder Aaron Barfield had identified “an issue with Black people in the cannabis industry” as licensing had been unfairly “lopsided.” “Social equity is good,” he said, “but somebody needs to pay the price for how they affected our community.” Manning told the group that “the narrative that [WSLCB is] trying to push is as if Black people were too stupid or finanicailly inept to get a store. That’s not true.” He suggested that even if applicants for social equity licenses were successful they’d still “have the same overseers that made it difficult for Black people to get involved in the first place” and that the agency needed “get rid of the cancer, you can’t put a BandAid on cancer.” Manning warned, “They’re just going to come up with a good way to design to take it from us in the future if we don’t get rid of them.” Sardinas assured everyone that “I’m committed to the cause that is equity for the Black, Indigenous, and people of color community, I’m committed to working with the task force and making sure we collectively make the changes that are necessary, including if there need to be changes at a state agency. We are doing this work in earnest.” She added that the group wouldn’t “shy away from the difficult work.” Co-Chair Melanie Morgan gave her assurance that the task force would keep the cannabis history they’d learned in mind and credited Barfield for “speaking his truth” and raising the issue in the media. She asked Manning to follow up with her legislative office “in terms of the LCB’s structure” believing it was fair for the task force to question “is this the right team to carry out the recommendations that the task force will be putting forward?”
    • Paul Brice, Happy Trees Owner (audio - 3m). Brice said he found WSLCB decision making took away “any Black minorities’ ability to advertise or have a voice” as he’d been fined for “every non-advertising violation.” He commented that Enforcement officers “just found a reason to try to target me and make sure I didn’t have no freedom of speech.” Brice believed the ability of cannabis businesses to voice “what it is that, you know, we need support or we need help” and advertise “what has happened” to minorities in the cannabis market without regulatory penalization was a component of good equity policy.
      • Check out Brice’s comments during the first, second, and final BIPOC sessions.

Though not unanimous, the task force voted to focus on anti-Black racism in their operating principles before broadly discussing the equity program and establishing three work groups.

Here are some observations from the Monday December 14th Washington State Legislative Task Force on Social Equity in Cannabis (WA Task Force on Social Equity in Cannabis) public meeting.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • The task force operating principles were adopted, though a minority of members remained opposed to one principle guiding the group to focus on “anti-Black racism.”
    • During the first task force meeting on October 26th, task force members discussed the group’s operating principles, which broadly described “what it is the task force stands for and what we’re about.” Task force members reviewed proposed operating principles drafted by Elise Rasmussen, a member of the task force’s support staff through the end of 2020:
      • Embrace Equity
      • Focus on Racism
      • Center Community
      • Commit to Bold Action 
      • Be Vigilant for Unintended Consequences
    • At the December meeting, Rasmussen showed the group a new version of the operating principles with the central change being a Focus on Anti-Black Racism with alternate language “possibly focusing on racism more broadly.” Rasmussen explained that the other priorities were the same as the draft reviewed at the October 26th meeting and “not a lot” of revisions were provided from the task force as there was “broad support around the majority of these principles.” She acknowledged “a couple members between the last meeting and now who did share that they would like to focus on racism more broadly” while several members had voiced a preference for the term “Anti-Black Racism” as encompassing all prejudice while centering the experiences of African Americans. Rasmussen highlighted comments from task force member Yasmin Trudeau during the initial discussion, “if you’re focusing on anti-Black racism it’s not at the exclusion of other groups, but rather to uplift those other groups.” The revised language stated the task force would be “committed to promoting equity for all individuals and communities that have been disproportionately harmed by cannabis law violations. However, we recognize that Black and African American people have experienced particularly stark inequities in the criminal legal system generally, and specifically in the enforcement of cannabis laws, which have had a lasting impact on Black communities across Washington. We also recognize that different forms of discrimination and oppression are related to each other, and we will take the intersections of various identities into account” (audio - 4m).
      • Hear Trudeau’s comments during the operating principles discussion on October 6th (audio - 2m, video).
    • Task Force Co-Chair Paula Sardinas said her own family’s lineage was diverse but “when you look at the Black and African American experience...there is a tremendous disproportionality” in how they’ve been treated by the government. She equated the use of the term anti-Black racism with “my house being on fire. When I call the fire department, you know, I’m calling them not because my neighbor’s house but because my house is burning.” Sardinas said this wasn’t the same as not “car[ing] about our neighbor’s home, it means we have to put out the fire at the house that’s burning first so the other houses around it don’t burn down.” The term was not intended to marginalize any other group, she asserted, only that “in this moment...we are hearing the voices of community that is Black, it is White, it is indigenous, it is Latinx, it is young, it is old, it is established, it is progressive, it is moderate” who all favored addressing “the systemic and structural inequalities in the Black and African American community.” She believed the operating principles provided the task force an opportunity to “attempt to be an anti-racist culture and we do what we say” (audio - 2m).
    • Task force member Senator Curtis King said he had to “respectfully disagree with, with the statement that by focusing on anti-Black” racism and discrimination was itself “racism and discrimination, it doesn’t matter whether you’re Black, Brown, woman, whatever, and we should be addressing that across the full spectrum” (audio - 1m).
    • Co-Chair Representative Melanie Morgan acknowledged “what Senator King is trying to say, but unfortunately as our presentation showed that Black African Americans were never intended to be successful in this country. We were totally intended to be property and never enter into the market to where our White counterparts are.” She said attention should be on “dismantling racist systems before we can really talk about other discriminations,” and that dismantling was needed “especially in the Black/African American community” (audio - 1m).
    • Task force member Carmen Rivera said “just saying we’re going to focus on all discrimination and racism isn’t enough, we have to focus on anti-Black specifically” because “colorism is the real deal and it does really affect how we view and interact, and create these systems. And it has been overtly apparent that darker skinned Black people have been more disproportionately affected than others.” Moreover, she felt that “if we focus on anti-Black racism it will help all other communities of color as well” (audio - 1m).
    • Task force member Monica Martinez reported that “since our last meeting we have had some concern from our community” pointing out that “Edgar and Jasmine Castaneda wrote a very nice letter emphasizing how the Latino community has also been affected by the war on drugs and also had discrimination against” them. She said language “including all Black, and Brown, and people of color is very important” and that there was time for “due diligence, maybe, to all the people of color that we’re looking at that have been affected by the war on drugs.” Coming from a multiracial family that had experienced “issues within our family of the war on drugs”, Martinez wanted as much inclusion in judging who had been impacted by discrimination as possible. She pointed to a diverse group of stakeholders all concerned “that they might be missing out a stake in this equity program” (audio - 5m).
      • Sardinas agreed that Martinez raised an important point: “we don’t want any community to feel that we’re doing anything where their voices won’t be heard and respected and we want equity for all minority communities.” Noting that she was “a Latinx person, I’m actually Cuban,” Sardinas said using the term anti-Black racism in this context was not “the oppression Olympics” and “we are not leaving out our Latinx brothers and sisters or indigenous sisters, or our women.”
      • Rivera added that focusing on anti-Black racism “includes the Latinx community and the Carribean community, and all other communities...who have black skin.” Overall, she found the language inclusive and “the language to say it discludes them, I think, is the language of the oppressor.”
    • Several members of the public joined in to offer their perspectives:
      • Peter Manning Black Excellence in Cannabis (BEC) Co-Founder offered his view that “this is a system that they designed for us to fight over” and that various disadvantaged communities “are all in this together.” Were those communities to unite “together, they cannot stand against us,” he said (audio - 1m).
      • Emily Pinckney said she’d “been working in cannabis justice for a while now.” She echoed Rivera’s comments that “colorism is real” and that while many communities had Black individuals in it, “anti-Black racism happens everywhere in the globe.” She explained that it only benefited oppressive forces “for folks to be fighting over scraps” and the goal should be a “bigger and better future for all of us” which necessitated cooperation (audio - 1m).
      • Michael Gordon felt that Rivera, Manning, and Pinckney “said it all for me” (audio - <1m).
    • Task force member Ollie Garrett made an initial motion to adopt the operating principles which included the focus on anti-Black racism and was seconded, with all members voting in support of the principles except for King, Martinez, Representative Kelly Chambers, and member Pablo Gonzalez (audio - 1m).
    • Task force member Senator Rebecca Saldaña then suggested an amendment which she believed supported an emphasis on anti-Black racism. She said data showed Black and Hispanic communities were “overlapping” in enduring disproportionate enforcement around the state and wondered about “calling out that specific piece around how we’ve over criminalized both these communities in particular.” Saldaña suggested that the language “specifically in the enforcement of cannabis laws, which have had a lasting impact on Black communities across Washington” be revised to read “Black and Latinx communities” (audio - 3m).
      • Following remarks from Mike Asai of Emerald City Collective Garden (ECCG, audio - 8m) and Rivera (audio - 1m), Saldaña expressed gratitude for the dialog and chose to withdraw her suggested amendment “so that we can move forward” (audio - 3m).
    • Task force member Raft Hollingsworth asked whether inclusion or exclusion of anti-Black racism in the principles would “have any effect on how we move forward in terms of how we legislate or make recommendations?” (audio - 3m)
      • Morgan said the impact would be significant as “once we start throwing other things in there, the uncomfortableness is talking about slavery, is talking about Black codes... If you put something else in there it's like ‘Oh, I can pivot over here where I’m more comfortable to speak about’ instead of dealing with the real issue.” She added that addressing anti-Black racism needed to happen “before we can move on in bringing everybody else on board because this is the original problem.”
      • Sardinas told the group that when equity policies weren’t “intentional about dismantling structural racism we will be 401 more years talking about this problem.” Even if emphasizing anti-Black racism made “some folks uncomfortable,” she asserted that “we have to be unapologetic about making sure that we are saving and protecting Black lives.”
      • Hollingsworth clarified that the wording of the principles did “not mean we’re not acknowledging the impact on the Latin community” but that the task force was starting by focusing on the impact to African American communities. Morgan responded that the focus “to begin with” would be on anti-Black racism but that focus would not be “for the whole task force.”
      • Martinez remained concerned, but Sardinas encouraged her to “trust the process” (audio - 2m).
    • The task force took a final vote to adopt the operating principles as drafted with King, Chambers, Martinez, and Gonzalez remaining opposed (audio - 2m).
  • Members talked about general ideas and specific components of a social equity program to be administered by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB).
    • Sardinas asked Morgan to discuss “clean up legislation” which could modify the law which created the task force defined in HB 2870 (audio - 4m).
      • Morgan referenced the previous discussion about the bill’s evolution, saying some stakeholders “wanted to open the borders to the cannabis industry to out-of-state investors” as a way of funding cannabis equity but members of the Washington State Commission on African American Affairs (CAAA) and BEC were “very instrumental in ensuring that that did not happen” - and she agreed with them.
      • Calling the statute “a little bit confusing,” Morgan said WSLCB’s equity program would require applicants to provide a “social equity plan” which would be used “to give out those 35 licenses.” She noted the need for equity applicants to secure a lease prior to applying for a license with WSLCB seemed “backwards to me” and that it was possible that new legislation would “change the requirements on what that looks like, right? In removing those barriers.”
      • Morgan suggested that the “biggest success of [HB] 2870 is that we’re all here,” but the group needed to outline “what does social equity look like for the rest of the state to look at through those eyes.” She was confident that “we can take this plan and ensure that it services all the right people in the right way,” citing her experience with the Washington State Office of Equity Task Force and “stop gaps” in the enacting legislation to stymie efforts “to dismantle it somewhere in the future.” Morgan was supportive of “those types of things as we’re moving forward in our work” .
    • Sardinas said that “from soup to nuts we put this bill together in 42 days” and that the number of involved stakeholder groups “that needed to be at the table” had increased significantly since HB 2870’s passage (audio - 3m).
      • Sardinas described blindspots in the bill, noting “we didn’t provide funding for staffing” that would have allowed for data and policy analysis to answer the task force’s questions.
      • $1.1 million was allocated during FY 2020-21 for the law’s technical assistance grant program, money which “we need to make sure that we protect.” Sardinas suggested the existing money could be allotted “to those folks that have labored and struggled just to keep their heads afloat” while subsequent funding could go to new equity licensees.
      • She wondered about increasing “usable licenses or allotments moved” from jurisdictions with bans or moratoriums to more welcoming localities because “we need more licenses” to ensure that “everyone can get a piece of the Washington cannabis dream.”
    • “At minimum,” said Saldaña, “everything that you guys have raised, are the things that we need to consider.” She supported “adequate funding” for task force support staff and prospective changes to the group’s authorizing law to allow applications for other license types beyond retail stores. Saldaña also backed “opportunities for mentorship” from current minority license holders for incoming equity applicants, mentioning her goal not to “lose current businesses” while expanding license equity in the cannabis market. Many Cannabis Retail Title Certificates were held by non-White applicants, she noted, adding that the task force should be part of “facilitating a conversation with cities” which kept licensed cannabis stores from opening. She indicated an amenability to having “licenses become portable” between jurisdictions (audio - 4m).
    • Sardinas summed up possible legislative actions: “staffing, protecting the funding, the need for more licenses, moving allocations and lifting bans and moratoriums, the ability for the task force to do our work, looking at licenses across all the verticals of cannabis, incubators programs, [and] looking at technical assistance” being used for current license holders from communities of color “so their doors don’t close” (audio - 1m).
    • Chambers inquired about the former Cole Memorandum which was rescinded in 2018 (audio - 1m) before asking about WSLCB’s prior license application processes. When responding, Garrett determined it was preferable for the agency’s licensing and policy staff to brief the task force at a future meeting (audio - 3m).
      • At the December 22nd Board Caucus, Garrett confirmed that agency licensing staff would present during the task force’s next meeting (audio - 2m).
    • King wondered when data from the U.S. Census would be available “so that we know what the growth has been in the state of Washington” and “what that growth represents in the number of new licenses that could be issued.” As for increasing the allotment of cannabis licenses “I don’t see us doubling that or even taking 50% of it without impacting those businesses that are already there and struggling” (audio - 3m). 
    • Sardinas expressed an interest in allowing inactive licenses to be “retracted and put into social equity and then issued” by WSLCB to equity applicants instead of increasing the licensing cap. Garrett reported that a briefing from WSLCB staff could address “all of those subjects because some of those things are things we already looked into.” As for licenses located in jurisdictions with bans or moratoriums, Garrett said “the agency is already reaching out to those areas to try to talk to them” about why they had the restrictions, and their willingness to remove them. Morgan spoke up to note that “we don’t put bans on liquor stores, we don’t put bans on cigarette stores, and all other type of retail,” asking why local governments had the authority to prohibit the cannabis industry. Manning offered that “the root of our problem” was WSLCB itself, and that the agency was protecting “those stakeholders that are currently in Seattle” by offering available retail allotments which were almost all outside the city. Garrett called attention to an opinion from the Washington State Office of the Attorney General (WA OAG) which “determined early in the process that the cities and counties could create bans and moratoriums” clarifying that was not a decision by WSLCB (audio - 7m).
    • Gonzalez explained that he’d gone through both the original licensing lottery process, and the priority-based licensing process necessitated during the merging of the recreational and medical cannabis markets by SB 5052 in 2015 (audio - 11m). 
      • He said “the first process was flawed,” as he secured an “intent to lease” but ended up losing the lottery to an applicant who had neither a lease nor signed document of intent for one. Gonzalez said he perceived the loss was “directed towards my age and ethnicity.”
      • Eventually able to open in September 2015, he believed WSLCB Licensing staff during the second application window overlooked “falsifying records” like paying back-taxes and that the agency hadn’t cracked down when applicants “forged their paperwork.”
      • Sardinas asked Gonzalez whether he backed using the funds budgeted for the Technical Assistance Grant Program for “those of you that have already been in the industry and are just trying to survive.” Though Gonzalez found that would be helpful, “it doesn’t really fix the issue” which was how the agency set up the licensing process, as it took “seven or eight months to even just transfer a license” and he could sometimes go weeks without hearing from Enforcement staff when he had a question or issue. In jest, he suggested giving the grant money to WSLCB in order for them “to have more staff” and less bureaucracy so they could “be more understanding.”
    • Garrett was appreciative of Gonzalez’s points and acknowledged a “great need” for technical assistance in prior licensing windows. She agreed that better support for applicants could fix several of the issues he’d raised because the agency had reviewed their licensing system and found “it was the process...a lot of the requirements and things.” Nonetheless, Garrett wanted fixes for those barriers “in place coming out of this task force” in addition to the continuing enforcement reforms recommended by an independent review in 2019. She noted this included the agency’s Cannabis Consultation Visits which would have Enforcement and Education staff “working with you, not coming out to write you a violation.” 
    • Paul Brice, Happy Trees Owner, asked that a future briefing from WSLCB staffers include “population versus diversity for these allotments” as his business served a “population of 3,000 people” around Cle Elum while Gonzalez had a shop near a much larger population. Technical assistance grants could really help Brice’s business, or any located in an “area where there’s just zero population,” he remarked, “because there’s no money where there’s no money to begin with.” Additionally, he felt those joining the industry near larger populations would face competition from businesses “that know how to compete and they know how to sell...whereas that’s going to be a learning curve for anyone you drop into this situation.” Brice alleged that the majority of licensed cannabis in Washington was “getting pushed out of our state illegally through our legal growers.” Other members disagreed with that presumption (audio - 5m).
    • Sardinas asked Darlene Conley to offer her feedback, as she had “got her license back, reinstated about a month ago.” Conley, owner of Social and Economic Equity and Diversity (SEEDS) for African Americans in the Legal Cannabis Industry, a tier 1 licensee in Tacoma, expressed concern about out-of-state investments since already “most of the market is controlled by a few growers.” She supported technical assistance grants for minority-owned licensees, noting she had to accept a recent profit of $16 “just to get our product on the shelves.” Conley disagreed with Brice’s estimation of how much of the state’s legal cannabis supply was illicitly trafficked, admitting “some of them, out of desperation, get involved,” while others sell to investors set on acquiring multiple licenses (audio - 3m).
    • Hollingsworth said supporting existing minority-owned cannabis businesses was critical to the success of future social equity applicants both in terms of existing infrastructure and the “wealth of knowledge” they could impart to applicants. He suggested the technical assistance money go towards a mentorship program for equity applicants as they learned to navigate “the most oversight of any industry” in the nation “more so than, you know, handling nuclear waste” (audio - 3m).
    • Darlene Conley (audio - 1m).
    • Peter Manning (audio - 1m).
    • Task force member David Mendoza supported using technical assistance for current minority companies and expanding equity applications to other license types. He suggested new sectors of the cannabis industry like “home delivery, or on-site consumption services” could be exclusive to the social equity program (audio - 2m).
    • Melanie Morgan (audio - <1m).
    • King noted that tax revenue from cannabis for the state in 2020 was “up 27% over 2019, so I’m not sure that a lot of our retail stores are struggling, it may be our growers and processors that are having a problem” (audio - 2m).
    • Pablo Gonzalez (audio - 3m).
  • The group voted to create its first work groups around disproportionate impact areas, technical assistance, and license types.
    • Due to the task force’s numerous “moving parts,” Morgan called for “recommendations for some sub-groups to be created” to evaluate specific topics and then advise the entire task force. “Otherwise, we will be doing exactly what Mr. Manning is warning us about,” she said, by “just going in circles” (audio - 5m).
      • Disproportionate Impact Area Work Group. Lead staffer Christy Curwick-Hoff observed that creation of this work group had been suggested during the task force’s first meeting on October 26th. Sardinas suggested that adding “disparate impacts” to the definition of “disproportionality” was one way to “look at everything through the lens of racial equity.” Mendoza moved to create the work group and was seconded by Sardinas.
      • Technical Assistance Grant/Mentorship Work Group. Saldaña made a motion to create the group, and was seconded by Garrett (audio - 1m).
        • Hollingsworth offered to lead the work group and Gonzalez voiced an interest in joining.
      • License Types Work Group. Sardinas called for a group “to talk about what are the other licenses that we need to consider” for inclusion in the program (audio - 1m).
        • Gonzalez and Martinez decided to lead the effort together.
    • Having proposed a trio of work groups, Morgan called for task force members to email Hoff any work group they wanted to join. Saldaña asked if this would be an opportunity for community members to serve in addition to task force members, but Morgan felt the task force “needed to discuss that further” before making a decision (audio - 5m).

Information Set