Drug convicts could be first in line to open cannabis shops in Washington state


The state of Washington is mulling a “social equity license” that would give preference in cannabis shop licensing to those convicted and imprisoned on non-violent drug offenses.

If the Washington State Liquor Cannabis Board adopts the rule, the city of Seattle would follow suit and also commit $1 million in grant money to help ex-cons get their start in the cannabis business.

There are 40 licenses being kept on hold by the LCB for this purpose.

“Our intent is to be able to reach applicants that were disproportionally harmed by the war on drugs,” Brian Smith, Director of Communications for the LCB, told Seattle Fox Affiliate KCPQ-TV.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell opined that “As the cannabis industry continues to develop, we must course correct and support the communities who too often have been left behind.”

Applicants for these licenses would be scored on a points system to determine how impacted they, their family, or their community was by the “War on Drugs.”

Qualifying criteria for applicants include being arrested or convicted for a marijuana charge, being related to someone arrested or convicted for said charge, going to prison for said charge, and living in an area disproportionately affected by punitive drug policies.

The University of Washington is currently developing a map of those areas.

Cannabis fines would be worth 10 points, probation 20 points, home detention 40 points and served jail time 80 points.

“When compared to an individual who hasn’t had a drug conviction, the person who did serve time in jail would be given consideration,” Mr. Smith told KCPQ-TV.

Adan Espino Jr, a cannabis industry lobbyist, concurred with the concept, telling KCPQ-TV that “If it’s non-violent, and you’ve proven your debt to society, and you want to make it up, then let’s have at it.”

KCPQ-TV also spoke with two unnamed store owners, who did not want to be publicly identified for fear of public outcry.

One feared that the move would just put licenses in the hands of people unqualified to run a professional cannabis business. 

The other thought the proposal was cynical, saying that “this is just a political make good.”

The LCB is holding a public hearing on the proposed social equity licensing rules on Sept. 14.


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