The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board states that only 4% of cannabis retailers in the state are Black-own stores (LCB).
Mike Asai, a Black entrepreneur from Seattle, recalls growing up during the Drug War in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “Growing up in Seattle in the 1980s, [just] having a joint would get you five years in prison,” said one of the Emerald City Collective’s co-founders of Seattle’s first medical cannabis retailers, told King5.
“I’ve seen it happen with family, friends, and acquaintances for just that.”
In the early 2000s, Peter Manning, a friend of Asai’s, joined a marijuana collective that included growers and distributors in Seattle retailers and growers from Seattle.
However, when the state legalize recreational cannabis in 2015, Asai and Manning force them to close their doors and apply for new licenses.
The two men had paid city and state taxes. They had all of the necessary licenses to operate, and they believed that because they were among the first to do so. Before they could reopen, it was only a matter of time. On the other hand, the state had other plans when it denied Black business owners. There are 19 (3.4%) recreational cannabis licenses in the state.
At public meetings, black, indigenous, and other minorities have begun to fight back against the LCB, demanding answers and action.
In 2016 and 2019, Washington State commissioned two independent reports auditing the LCB’s enforcement program. Racial discrimination allegations, and failure to provide applicants with educational resources. Conflicting information regarding cannabis law in the state resulted in many applications being rejected.
“What do you have for me?” Manning explained. “A license stating that I am authorized to sell cannabis?.” But I can’t sell cannabis. Because it’s illegal to do so in this location. “How about that equity?”
The task force recently discuss granting licenses to companies that previously owned medical dispensaries. Such as Asai and Manning, with a final report and recommendations due in December. For the time being, Asai and Manning believe that the general public should be more aware. About where they are, and their cannabis money goes. Black Seattle residents want Black-owned stores in their community.