WA SECTF - Public Meeting
(January 24, 2022) - Summary

WA SECTF - Upcoming Work

New task force members were welcomed, followed by a review of recommendations already made and those still needed, then a vote to continue one work group and start up three others.

Here are some observations from the Monday January 24th Washington State Legislative Task Force on Social Equity in Cannabis (WA SECTF) Public Meeting.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • Chair Melanie Morgan and staff recapped some of the major legislation involving WA SECTF recommendations or otherwise impacting the group’s work and goals.
    • Morgan highlighted “some of the things that we’re working on now” in the legislature based on recommendations from the task force (audio - 4m, video, presentation).
      • HB 1827 / SB 5706 - “Creating the community reinvestment account and community reinvestment program.”
      • HB 2022 - “Concerning social equity in the cannabis industry.”
        • Covering recommendations on “creating additional licenses for social equity, the mobility piece…and the buffer zone area,” the bill’s policy committee hearing was scheduled for Friday January 28th.
      • SB 5796 - “Restructuring cannabis revenue appropriations.”
      • Morgan thanked those who testified in favor of the legislation, naming Sherman, Jim Buchanan from the Washington State African American Cannabis Association (WSAACA), and representatives from the Seattle King County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (Seattle King County NAACP) specifically. These individuals “know where we’ve come from, and where we want to go,” she commented, and “help to support our legislation out of the work that this task force has done.”
      • She said an amended disproportionately impacted area (DIA) scoring rubric approved by the task force had been reviewed by WSLCB Director of Licensing Becky Smith and staff who “so-to-speak, did a counter-recommendation.” Morgan stated that people with “issues” could reach out to her office about the modified rubric as, “at this point, there isn’t any more work to do on that in terms of the task force.” The process was now about working with lawmakers and WSLCB leaders on how “we use that in the legislation going forward,” she indicated, further noting the rubric had been examined by Washington State Office of Equity Director Karen Johnson, who “also approved the counter-recommendations” from the agency.
        • The original bill text of HB 2022 does not explicitly specify a scoring rubric, but instead directs: “The third-party contractor shall prioritize applicants based on a scoring rubric recommended by the social equity in cannabis task force and approved by the office of equity.”
      • Morgan said the fate of many task force recommendations had shifted to “what we get over the threshold” in the remainder of the legislative session before encouraging task force members and attendees to “please come and testify…the more support we have, the better it looks for getting what we need for social equity.”
    • Slaughter reviewed “eight areas of responsibility the task force was assigned to make recommendations on.” She indicated “the task force first decided to focus on factors” WSLCB staff needed to consider “in distributing licenses that are currently available for social equity applicants,” as well as guidance to WA Commerce regarding the social equity technical assistance grant program (audio - 5m, video). 
      • “The first recommendation that came out of the task force was addressed to the department of commerce,” she explained, covering inclusion of existing licensees that meet the definition of social equity applicants with those who can qualify for the grants and further defining what “social equity applicant” means.
      • WSLCB staff were advised by the task force on eligibility, the definition of ‘family member,’ as well as formulas to “identify” and prioritize DIAs and applicants, Slaughter indicated, noting recommendations were available on the task force’s website.
      • Recommendations to legislators had become the legislation mentioned by Morgan, Slaughter remarked, adding that task force staff were tracking legislation related to:
        • Funding for a community reinvestment fund supported by Governor Jay Inslee
        • Reserving any new licenses or license type expansions for equity applicants through 2029
        • Allowing equity license mobility in conjunction with local zoning
        • Reduced buffer distances for cannabis businesses from restricted entities other than elementary and secondary schools and playgrounds
      • Slaughter relayed the remaining “six areas of consideration that the task force is still responsible to make recommendations on and deliver by December 9th of 2022”:
        • “A) Whether any additional cannabis produce[r], process[or] or retailer licenses should be issued beyond the total number of licenses.
        • B) The social Equity Impact of Altering residential cannabis agriculture regulations.”
          • At publication time, HB 1019, homegrow legislation, remained active but had not been moved during the 2022 legislative session.
        • “C) The social equity impact of the shifting [of] primary regulation of cannabis production from the board to the department of agriculture. Including potential impacts to the employment rights of workers.
        • D) the social equity impact of removing non-violent cannabis related felonies and misdemeanors from the existing point system used to determine if a person qualifies for obtaining or renewing a cannabis license.
        • E)Whether to create workforce training opportunities for underserved communities to increase employment opportunities in the cannabis industry.
        • F)The Social equity impact of creating new cannabis license types”
  • Morgan outlined the tasks remaining for WA SECTF work groups on changes to cannabis licensing; community reinvestment and workforce training; moving producer regulation to the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA); and adult cannabis cultivation conjoined with WSLCB nonviolent conviction policy.
    • Morgan communicated that the task force would form new work groups to look at equity implications for required topics, saying she wanted the task force to vote for new work groups to “ensure that we’re all on the same page heading the right direction” (audio - 5m, video).
    • The Licensing Work Group would continue with Sherman and Martinez as co-leads, Morgan said, in order to focus on other “licenses that may be coming down the line.”
    • Morgan proposed a “Community Reinvestment and…Workforce Job Training” Work Group to continue conversations on “who should receive the funds, and who should deliver the funds.” The new work group would be led by Berkley, Merriweather, and Hollingsworth.
    • Morgan said a WSDA Work Group would consider the merits of transitioning regulation of cannabis production to the department. Noting HB 1710, a bill to create an agricultural commodity commission for cannabis, she indicated the work group could “be involved in that.”
    • Residential cannabis agriculture, or homegrow of cannabis by adults, had been a topic at the legislature “for as long as I’ve been on the Commerce and Gaming [Committee],” Morgan observed. A new work group would consider the equity implications of Washington state homegrow policy and act as a WSLCB “Nonviolent Conviction Policy Work Group,” she added.
    • Mogan reminded attendees that they could become involved in any work group that spoke to their interests or background, as some “in-depth conversations” wouldn’t be had at the task force level. She invited remarks from the task force.
    • Makoso voiced his interest in serving on the work groups for WSDA and Community Reinvestment, as he’d liked being involved in “the training and mentorship ideas” under discussion (audio - 1m, video).
    • Hollingsworth followed up to praise Saldaña’s work in the WA Senate. Morgan concurred, adding “when you’re talking about taking taxes” and reallocating them, “especially inside of a status quo systemic racist system,” it was a “heavy lift” and Saldaña deserved credit (audio - 1m, video). 
    • The task force voted unanimously to retain the Licensing Work Group, and establish the other three put forward by Morgan (audio - 2m, video). 
    • Morgan candidly acknowledged work groups could get “tedious at times, but it is satisfying” furthering social equity. She asked anyone interested to connect with Slaughter, and for those already involved to “stay tuned” for scheduling updates (audio - 1m, video).
      • Merriweather inquired whether “a combination of task force members and other [public] members” were still permitted in the work groups. Morgan affirmed they were (audio - 1m, video).

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