Olympia, WA – Convicted drug dealers interested in opening their own retail cannabis stores could soon receive preferential treatment from the Washington State Liquor Cannabis Board when applying for their retail licenses.
The board is currently working to establish a point system that would essentially reward those who have been convicted of drug offenses, thereby boosting the likelihood of them receiving a retail cannabis license, KCPQ reported.
“Our intent is to be able to reach applicants that were disproportionally harmed by the war on drugs,” Liquor Cannabis Board Director of Communications Brian Smith said.
Issuing licenses to convicts who have been punished for drug offenses in the past constitutes a form of social equity, according to the board.
Smith said the Liquor Cannabis Board has set aside 40 licenses as part of its social equity program, KCPQ reported.
In order for applicants to receive a license in that special category, they need to be residing in an area that the board deems was disproportionally harmed by the “war on drugs.”
The University of Washington is in the process of developing a map to show which areas of the state were most impacted, according to KCPQ.
Only convicted drug offenders or their family members would qualify under the currently proposed rules.
“The social equity applicant or a family member of the applicant has been arrested or convicted of a cannabis offense,” the board noted.
Those who spent the most time in prison will have the highest likelihood of receiving a retail cannabis license, KCPQ reported.
“You get points for as little as just being arrested for let’s say a marijuana conviction, but you get additional points if you served time jail or prison,” Smith said.
Applicants would receive a 10-point credit if they were fined for a prior cannabis-related conviction, KCPQ reported.
Those who were sentenced to probation would get 20 points, and a history of house arrest would earn them 40 points.
But the real high-scorers would be those who served time in jail or prison, Smith noted.
They would be awarded a whopping 80 points towards their goal of obtaining a retail cannabis license, KCPQ reported.
Applicants would also receive a five-point bonus for being related to anyone else who has been convicted of a drug offense.
Smith acknowledged that those with prior drug convictions would have an obvious edge over law-abiding citizens under the board’s plan.
“When compared to an individual who hasn’t had a drug conviction, the person who did serve time in jail would be given consideration,” he told KCPQ.
The Seattle City Council has endorsed the board’s plan and preemptively set aside $1 million in grant money to hand over to those who receive retail cannabis licenses under the social equity program.
“We recognize the disproportionality of the war on drugs on the black community,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s Labor Relations Policy Advisor, Brianna Thomas, told KCPQ.
Harrell said the city “must course correct and support the communities who too often have been left behind” as the “cannabis industry continues to develop,” The Washington Times reported.
Seattle Council Member Teresa Mosqueda said it is a shame the city is just now finding a way to give back to those who have been incarcerated for drug-related offenses.
“It’s an embarrassment that we are so far behind, and we need to step up,” Mosqueda said during a recent council committee meeting, according to KCPQ. “That wealth can be shared with the folks that were disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs and to make up for that lost time we’ve had over the last 10 years when that equity approach wasn’t applied in the first go around.”
The Liquor Cannabis Board said it plans to hold a public hearing on the proposed social equity retail cannabis licensing program rules on Sept. 14.