Next week, the Seattle City Council will vote on three bills in Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda’s cannabis equity package. However, two amendments have put Black business groups and labor unions on opposite sides of the fence.
The Stranger reports Mosqueda worked with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) on the cannabis equity policies proposed earlier this year. Among its requests, the UFCW asked the Seattle City Council to form a commission, impose an equity tax on cannabis sales, and expunge criminal records related to cannabis.
Using the UFCW’s recommendations and feedback from Seattle’s cannabis racial equity team, Mosqueda developed three bills as a first step. The first bill explains Seattle’s commitments to the war on drugs victims. The second bill will establish a social equity cannabis license to waive eligible business owners’ annual fees.
The third bill would help cannabis workers by requiring outgoing cannabis business owners to give incoming owners a hiring list they would need to use for a few months.
The first two bills passed easily, but the third bill has led to a disagreement between council members Sara Nelson and Mosqueda on what organization Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell should select to conduct the Cannabis Needs Assessment, which would create a task force to plan future investments and develop a training system for cannabis workers.
Mosqueda proposed an amendment for the assessment to be conducted by We Train, a “joint labor-management initiative” between employers and a local UFCW chapter. The group trains grocery workers and has conducted studies on worker safety. Nelson, however, said the amendment gives control of the assessment to a union-associated group and prefers an academic institution such as the University of Washington to manage the assessment.
Black business groups, including Black Excellence in Cannabis (BEC) and the Washington Build Back Black Alliance (WBBA), like Nelson, are worried if the organization conducting the assessment has skin the game, it will influence its final report to serve its ends.
“If this legislation is really about advancing cannabis equity, we need to listen to the community that has spoken, the Black community members who have come today and have asked that their needs be centered in this discussion in going forward because otherwise, it seems as though it could just be simply a vehicle for advancing the interests of an outside or a special interest,” Nelson said according to The Stranger.
The committee eventually passed Mosqueda’s amendment to work with We Train and didn’t hold a vote on Nelson’s proposal. However, Nelson can propose the amendment to the full council ahead of the vote next week, although she has yet to say if she will.