WA SECTF - Work Group - Community Reinvestment - Public Meeting
(April 14, 2022) - Summary

WA SECTF - Work Group - Community Reinvestment - Preliminary Recommended Organizations

Work group members as well as public participants shared their thoughts on the spending of community reinvestment dollars and workforce training at the group’s final meeting.

Here are some observations from the Thursday April 14th Washington State Legislative Task Force on Social Equity in Cannabis Community Reinvestment Work Group (WA SECTF - Work Group - Community Reinvestment) Public Meeting.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • Members then talked through a new recommendation on workforce job training and whether to recommend reinvestment dollars be allowed to support cannabis equity licensees or staff.
    • Merriweather conveyed that the task force was required to consider whether “to create workforce training opportunities for underserved communities to increase employment opportunities in the cannabis industry.” She liked the idea of having funds “set aside for scholarship and grant programs,” but wanted to have the option available to ancillary services such as “accountants” or those wanting to run “a security company” (audio - 10m).
      • Zach Fairley, The Calico Group Project Manager and a former cannabis industry employee, wanted to see workforce training for roles in other cannabis license types. Moodie further saw a chance for training opportunities to be applicable to agricultural and culinary jobs to answer a consumer demand for “upscale products.”
      • Jim Makoso, Flowe Technology CEO, Lucid Lab Group Director, and task force appointee, seconded Fairley’s suggestions that general business professionals like chemists, engineers, or accountants could receive job training. Depending on how participation for trainers was set up, he imagined his business entering “partnerships with companies” in order to host “on-the-job type trainings.”
      • Berkley wondered about offering “credits, maybe, to a business” doing on-the-job training in addition to “scholarships and grants for folks that maybe want to go to college.” She summed up the purpose as being about more than “putting people on shops and farms when we talk about this workforce training.”
      • Moodie felt that “creative writing and marketing” were other valid ancillary jobs in helping a cannabis equity business “to be the leader of their trade.”
      • Makoso claimed that leadership of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) had considered a “cross-committee collaboration” on a certification that covers “industry-specific items or something more broad.” He commented that Washington State University (WSU) had some cannabis-specific courses and that there was value in supporting “more general” coursework like chemistry. Fairley concurred with the need for a cannabis certification program, finding that even as cannabis centered equity efforts expanded there remained a lack of a national “hub” for industry-specific knowledge and training for those “that are going to be entering into the cannabis market through social equity.”
    • Buchanan called for total clarity that workforce training was “for the people in the cannabis industry [or entering it] that qualify for community reinvestment funds, not just for open cannabis industry money” (audio - 1m). 
    • Buchanan stated that WA Commerce representatives were already working “to put something together to go for this fiscal year” (FY) while WA SECTF recommendations may be considered “for the next fiscal year coming up.” He considered it to be “crucial” that their input be weighed “this fiscal year” to ensure worthy groups received reinvestment dollars (audio - 4m). 
      • Slaughter told the group that FY 2023 began in July 2022 and was the start of WA Commerce implementation of the community reinvestment fund. Her understanding, based on “the budget that was explained to our staff,” was that “the money is not going to the community this July” but rather that WA Commerce would consult, review, and begin disbursing the $200 million fund in FY 2024, which would begin in July 2023.
      • Buchanan had a different impression from staff in the Washington State Office of the Governor (WA Governor). He understood that in the “2023 fiscal year that starts in July, $200 million will be released” and claimed that in the “2024 fiscal year it’s $100 million and [FY] 2025 it’s $100 million. And they gave me that information about four different times.” If money for the next fiscal year was to be spent beginning in July 2022, “we need to make sure that while they're making the sausage that we’re making it with them."
      • Slaughter promised to have staff verify the amounts and timeframes for spending the reinvestment fund at the next WA SECTF meeting on April 26th.
      • Philip Petty followed up on the language in the budget to note that on July 2nd “the first $200 million is going to be distributed” and he also understood there would be another $100 million per year for FY 2024 and FY 2025. He wanted to avoid confusion, insisting that the fund wasn’t for “next year, it’s for right now” (audio - 3m). 
        • Section 128(134) in the budget also allotted $1 million dollars for FY 2023 “solely for the department to develop a community reinvestment plan to guide the distribution of grants from the community reinvestment account created in section 947 of this act.” The appropriation ends with a requirement that WA Commerce representatives draft “a preliminary report to the governor and relevant committees of the legislature by December 1, 2022” in addition to a “final report on the implementation plan…by June 30, 2023.”
    • Chris Anderson remarked that he wished to apply for a processing license. Berkeley responded that was more the wheelhouse of the WA SECTF Licensing Work Group. Makoso cautioned that while equity licensing for producer and processor license types had been proposed in HB 2022, the measure wasn’t passed by lawmakers so there wouldn’t be a way for Anderson to apply for that in the foreseeable future (audio - 2m). 
    • Slaughter returned to the workforce training recommendation wording, saying it needed to be drafted by the April 26th meeting of the task force (audio - 9m).
      • Raft Hollingsworth, a task force member representing producers, asked her to confirm that the question was intended broadly as to whether the work group wanted to advise spending the community reinvestment money on workforce job training. Her reading of the relevant statute was that the issue of job training could “simply be a yes-or-no question” but she felt there was discretion around “what that recommendation would look like.” Slaughter added there was “room to meet until the end of May” but this meeting was intended to be the community reinvestment work group’s last.
      • Hollingsworth asked for, and received an endorsement from the work group to recommend creating workforce training that covered equity licensees and ancillary services, with a focus on “more robust opportunities specifically for people from the communities that we’re trying to impact positively.”
      • Buchanan stressed a need to have job training spending cover “grants and low-interest loans” for cannabis equity licensees since grant money for that group had failed to pass as part of HB 2022.
    • Hollingsworth checked to see if there were “other suggestions” to consider before the work group wrapped up its recommendation work. Makoso offered “science” as a description of a general training area. Other training areas suggested included business management, information technology, intellectual property, and “legal training” (audio - 4m).
    • Slaughter summarized that she was hearing was support for WA Commerce dedicating money to workforce job training, and asked for the group to confirm if they were calling for “job specific certifications.” Fairley, who first broached the topic, hadn’t pictured it as mandatory certification, but an “acknowledgement” that an applicant had completed cannabis relevant workforce training. Merriweather speculated certifications could incentivize educational institutions to develop dedicated cannabis curriculum. Fairley and Merriweather agreed completed training could be used to lower a business’s insurance rates as well (audio - 5m).
  • WA SECTF Manager Anzhane Slaughter went over final steps before the workgroup disbanded at the end of the month (audio - 3m). 
    • She told the group that WA SECTF Chair Melanie Morgan would be meeting with work group co-leads on April 19th and the next public task force event would be a Licensing Work Group meeting on Thursday April 21st to “finalize their recommendations.”
    • Slaughter reminded the group about the WA SECTF meeting on April 26th. She then asked work group members whether they would need to meet again or if the work on their recommendations to task force members had concluded. Merriweather felt that in addition to re-opening the work group survey until April 25th, work group members could make a request for an additional meeting if they felt it was warranted.

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