Seattle’s Mayor Bruce Harrell has advanced a collection of bills to increase equity in the cannabis industry. The legislation seeks to promote a more diverse industry that provides better support to employees of cannabis retail stores. The effort is the product of collaboration between the mayor’s office, Seattle City Council member Teresa Mosqueda, and various industry stakeholders and workers.
Mayor Harrell has set out to address the fact that communities of color have been historically disproportionally profiled, targeted, and prosecuted during cannabis prohibition by creating opportunities for members of those communities to benefit from the nascent yet burgeoning cannabis industry.
“As the cannabis industry continues to develop, we must course correct and support the communities who too often have been left behind. Equity in this industry means safe working conditions and fair treatment for workers, store ownership that includes the communities most impacted by the war on drugs, and a commitment to fairness, innovation, and opportunity,” said Harrell.
He added, “While these policies alone cannot solve generations of injustice, they are critical first steps and a clear commitment to a one Seattle approach, where we make progress through partnership, working with state and federal leaders, industry stakeholders, and store workers to continue moving forward.”
The three bills presented to the Seattle City Council immediately implement reforms and lay the groundwork for longer-term programs by which to increase equity.
Included in the package is a City-wide social equity license designed to remove obstacles to ownership of cannabis stores by those most impacted by prohibition and create a cannabis advisory committee to be assembled with the input of the City Council. The committee will collect suggestions from workers and industry leaders on equity-related needs of cannabis workers. A provision was included requiring 90-day retention of store employees when cannabis businesses change ownership, and the expansion of efforts to expunge records of those previously convicted of cannabis offenses.
The slate of bills also will establish a state and federal campaign to promote equity in cannabis, in addition to improvements in safety, capital investments, and access to banking services that have been denied to cannabis businesses.
The Seattle area has seen a rash of armed robberies at cannabis stores, some of which have turned deadly. Cannabis retailers must work exclusively in cash because of federal banking regulations concerning cannabis businesses.
Vivian McPeak is a Seattle-based social justice activist, media personality, and writer. Vivian spent nearly three decades as the president of Seattle Events, a Non-Profit Organization, producer of the Seattle HEMPFEST®, the world’s largest annual cannabis policy reform rally. The recipient of the High Times Magazine 2012 Lester Grinspoon Lifetime Achievement Award and DOPE Magazine 2016 Emery Award for lifetime achievement, in 2016 Vivian was named one of the “50 Most Influential People” by Seattle Magazine. Vivian has appeared on numerous television and cable news networks, including FOX News, CNN, & NBC. McPeak is the host of Hempresent, a weekly radio podcast on Cannabis Radio with listeners on multiple continents.