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New task force creates pathway for more Black ownership in Washington's marijuana industry

The task force, co-chaired by two Black women, will help develop criteria for the state's Liquor and Cannabis Board to use when handing out licenses in the future.

SEATTLE — A new social equity task force in Washington state seeks to examine diversity in the cannabis industry.

The Social Equity in Cannabis Task Force has elected State Representative Melanie Morgan from Parkland as its co-chair.

“The state of Washington is moving along in that progressive place that we have to be radical, and make some deep changes,” Morgan said.

The task force came from the passage of House Bill 2870 which allows for more marijuana licenses to be handed out for social equity purposes. It’s part of a larger effort from the state to have more diversity in the marijuana industry.

“We as African Americans want to ensure that we are being made whole in this industry, as we have in the past have been penalized for this very thing,” she said.

The task force, co-chaired by Paula Sardinas of the African American Commission, features community members and state lawmakers who together will create criteria for 35 marijuana licenses currently unclaimed.

“To make sure that we're practicing equity in the state of Washington,” Morgan added.

Of the more than 500 licenses for marijuana processing or retailing handed out by the liquor and cannabis board since 2012, there are only a few given to majority black-owners statewide. Morgan said this task force is the first of several steps to change that.

“I know the state of Washington is ready to move forward, as we have shown just in the last few years, that we are passing meaningful legislation, that actually means a change, not a change that we were told was going to happen,” she said.