Marijuana

This file photo shows an assortment of marijuana strains along with edibles, oils, hand creams, tinctures, waxes and cartridges for sale at Gypsy Greens in Chehalis. 

OLYMPIA — Minorities could have a better shot at getting a state-issued license for a marijuana store as a way to make up for the effects of the nation's War on Drugs campaign.

A bill approved by the Senate on a 28-20 vote Monday would allow the Liquor and Cannabis Board to issue retail licenses previously revoked or canceled to applicants who are persons of color and own at least 51% of a marijuana retail business.

The applicant would be required to submit a "Social Equity Plan" explaining why they deserve the license along with their their business goals. It would need explain their experience with enforcement of marijuana laws and plans to work with organizations affected by that enforcement.

Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, said it's important people have such equitable opportunities for a marijuana retail licenses before lawmakers expand the number of licenses.

"We've heard from growers out in Yakima Valley that are very interested and are hopeful that this might create opportunities for them," Saldaña said.

Applicants could also be eligible for new grants from the state Department of Commerce, which would get $1.1 million a year for the program. The grant could cover costs related to navigating the licensing process, financial management training, compliance training and mentor programs.

An amendment from Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima would ensure that license fees under the social equity provisions aren't lower than everyone else's fees.

"These minority groups that we're going to allow to apply for these licenses need to pay that same amount so that we have an equal basis and we're treating everybody equally," he said.

The main goal of the bill is to help correct the barriers African Americans and Latinos experienced because of the War on Drugs and the transition from medicinal to legal recreational marijuana, Saldaña said.

A task force dedicated to social equity in marijuana would make recommendations to the Liquor and Cannabis Board and advise the Legislature on how to improve the program.

The bill was sent to the House where it will need to pass by Thursday.

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