The Washington State Legislative Task Force on Social Equity in Marijuana was established during the 2020 legislative session as part of HB 2870. 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 will facilitate development of a marijuana social equity program. The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House were responsible for appointing 18 members to the task force.
In October 2020, the Task Force’s page on the Washington State Governor’s Interagency Council on Health Disparities website was edited to rename the group the Washington State Legislative Task Force on Social Equity in Cannabis. A Note About Language was appended to explain: “Statute refers to this Task Force as the Social Equity in Marijuana Task Force. The Governor’s Interagency Council on Health Disparities is committed to using language that respects and honors the communities that this Task Force is created to serve. We have heard from community members that the word marijuana is racist, derogatory, and inflammatory. Historically, the word marijuana was used by American prohibitionists, along with the false perception that crime was linked to people of color, to exploit racism and xenophobia (Amy Loriaux, Marijuana and Racism: A History). Therefore, while referring to this Task Force and the social equity work that it has been charged with, the Council will use the term cannabis.”
Board Member Russ Hauge expressed his concern about coverage of the WSLCB’s BIPOC engagements and the Social Equity in Cannabis Task Force which he felt assumed “the LCB engaged in discriminatory if not racist practices during the initial round of licensing.”
Review of the task force’s scope and responsibilities, draft bylaws, and operating principles elicited member perspectives on the kinds of systemic racism they would attempt to address within the state’s legal cannabis market.
The Board prepared to receive proposed rules for the Location Compliance Certificates rulemaking project, briefly discussed the Task Force on Social Equity in Cannabis, and remained uncertain if the agency would host a meeting of the Cannabis Advisory Council (CAC) in 2020.