Seattle Paves Way For Social Equity With Free Cannabis Licenses

City license applicants must already be licensed by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.

Seattle residents who live in areas with high poverty or have been directly affected by the war on drugs are now eligible for zero-dollar cannabis licenses to do business in the city.

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell on Tuesday signed CB 120392, which allows those located within and outside Seattle who do business in the city a chance to secure cannabis licensing, according to Law360.

“I am very pleased to see that this joint effort between my office, the Council, FAS and community stakeholders has resulted in the passage of this suite of bills,” Harrell said in a news release.

Under the new rules, a social equity applicant must have at least 51% controlling ownership in the business.

To be a qualifying business under the ordinance it must be owned “by at least one individual who has been convicted of a cannabis offense, a drug offense or is a family member of such an individual.”

Cannabis licenses in the city usually carry a price tag upwards of $3,500, Law360 reported.

The move is a step in the right direction for local governments to help repair communities who have been most affected by racist drug policies.

However, applicants for the licenses are required to already have a valid state license for a cannabis business, “including but not limited to a license to produce, process, distribute, or transport cannabis or cannabis products.”

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board has ceased issuing more licenses, so those looking to obtain one must purchase it from a current license holder.

Other provisions in legislation signed by the mayor on Tuesday also require Seattle cannabis businesses to develop “job retention, security and stability” within the industry, such as programs that “improve workforce training and development, provide employee protections, and remedy the damage caused by cannabis prohibition and the failed War on Drugs to communities of color and marginalized communities.”

A more symbolic accord, CB 120391, expresses the city’s intent to “engage in cannabis equity, expungement of cannabis convictions, equity work and funding and develop a needs assessment for needs within the workforce and cannabis industry.”

Adam Jackson

Adam Jackson writes about the cannabis industry for the Green Market Report. He previously covered the Missouri Statehouse for the Columbia Missourian and has written for the Missouri Independent. He most recently covered retail, restaurants and other consumer companies for Bloomberg Business News. You can find him on Twitter at @adam_sjackson and email him at

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