Important Milestone Reached Regarding Cannabis Social Equity Application Process

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September 13, 2023

Important Milestone Reached Regarding Cannabis Social Equity Application Process

The Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB), over a two-week period that will begin Sunday Sept. 17, 2023, will issue status notification emails to those who applied for 46 available cannabis retail licenses held in reserve for social equity purposes. The timeline and next steps were announced today by Licensing Division staff at the bi-weekly LCB Board meeting.


The applications were scored by an independent, third-party organization, as recommended by the Social Equity in Cannabis Task Force and directed by RCW 69.50.335. The independent contractor, Ponder Diversity Group, reviewed, validated applicants’ qualifications, and scored all the applications submitted according to an LCB-developed and approved rubric.


To be eligible, scored, and considered for the social equity program, the following requirements must have been met:

  • At least a 51 percent majority, or controlling interest, in the applicant, must be held by a person, or persons, who has or have resided in Washington State for six months prior to the application date, consistent with RCW 69.50.331, and meets at least two of the following qualifications:

    • The applicant(s) must have lived in a disproportionately impacted area in Washington state for a minimum of five years between 1980 and 2010; or
    • The applicant(s) or a family member of the applicant has been arrested or convicted of a cannabis offense; or
    • The applicant(s)’ household income in the year prior to submitting the application was less than the median household income within the state of Washington as calculated by the United States Census Bureau.


Next Steps for Successful Applicants

Applicants will begin receiving notifications about their status within the next two weeks. In the case of a tie within a county, independent audit firm Kraght Snell, PS, will conduct a double-blind lottery to select the final applicants to move forward with the LCB licensing process. After the final applicants are identified, they will work with an LCB licensing specialist to complete the licensing process.


Background of the Social Equity Program and Future Social Equity Licenses The 2012 ballot measure Initiative 502, which legalized recreational use of cannabis by adults, did not include provisions or create programs to acknowledge the disproportionate harms the enforcement of cannabis laws had on certain populations and communities. The LCB recognizes that cannabis prohibition laws were disproportionately enforced for decades and that the cumulative harms from this enforcement remain today.


In 2020, in response to a policy priority identified by the Board, the LCB developed agency-request legislation which created the state Social Equity program, the Social Equity in Cannabis Task Force and the opportunity to provide a limited number of cannabis retail licenses to individuals disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of cannabis prohibition laws. The license applications mentioned above are the result of the 2020 legislation.


In 2023, following recommendations by the Social Equity in Cannabis Task Force, the LCB again requested legislation that would amend and expand the Social Equity program. The Legislature enacted E2SSB 5080 which will provide additional cannabis licenses over the next decade for social equity purposes.


The LCB will be conducting outreach and beginning the rules process over the fall and winter with the expectation of opening the application window for additional licenses in mid-2024.


More Information

A recording of today’s meeting will be available on the September Board Schedule page later today. The PowerPoint presented at the meeting is available here.


As always, please visit the Social Equity section of the LCB website at for the most current information pertaining to the Social Equity licensing process.