Skip to main content
Need assistance getting a cannabis business license? We can help. Schedule a Free Consultation

On March 1, 2023, the Washington Social Equity Cannabis License Application will be released. This program should improve equity and inclusion in the cannabis industry. Over 40 licenses that were canceled, revoked, forfeited or never issued will be available in specific jurisdictions across the state of Washington.


In 2020, the Washington State Legislature passed E2SHB 2870, which established a cannabis social equity program. As part of the program, the Social Equity in Cannabis Task Force will develop policies and recommendations to improve social equity within the cannabis industry licensing process. This bill creates a new status of “social equity applicant” for marijuana retailer licenses.

Social Equity Eligibility Qualifications

To qualify, a Washington resident must hold at least 51% of each social equity retail license applicant and the person or persons making up the applicant must meet at least two of the following qualifications:

  • The applicant has lived in a *Disproportionately Impacted Area (DIA) in WA for a minimum of 5 years between 1980 and 2010;
  • The applicant 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.

* Disproportionately Impact Area (“DIA”) is defined as “areas of high unemployment, low income, and demographic indicators consistent with populations most impacted by the war on drugs, including areas with higher rates of arrest for drug charges.”

Scoring System

Section 570 creates a scoring system to rank Social Equity Applicants.

Social Equity Application Scoring Rubric

Eligibility Requirements, Point Scale

  1. Lived in a disproportionately impacted area (DIA), 40 points
    How long have you lived in a DIA?
    5y -10y = 20 points
    10 + years = 40 points
  2. Convicted of a drug offense? (Self), 10 points
    Convicted of a cannabis offense? (Self), 40 points
  3. Convicted of a drug offense? (Family), 5 points
    Convicted of a cannabis offense? (Family), 5 points
  4. If you were convicted of a cannabis offense, what type of sentence did you receive:
    Fine, 10 points
    Served probation, 20 points
    Confined to home, 40 points
    Served time in jail or prison, 80 points
  5. Did you or your family member’s incarceration keep you from getting employment? 5 points
  6. Did you lose your home or ability to purchase a home or rent a home as a result of your convictions or arrests? 5 points
  7. Is your household income less than the median household income within the state of Washington as calculated by the United States Census Bureau? 40 points
  8. Did you own or operate a medical cannabis dispensary or collective garden, licensed as a business, prior to July 1, 2016 (10 points)? or Did you own and operate a medical cannabis dispensary or collective garden licensed as a business in a DIA (30 points)
  9. Have you held or do you currently hold 51 percent majority/controlling interest of a state cannabis (marijuana) retailer license?
    No, 10 points
    Yes, 0 points

Total Maximum Points = 310

Washington Social Equity Plan

The application process will be open for 30 calendar days initially, but the LCB may reopen the application window if licenses become available. The application must be submitted electronically and all required information must be submitted within the 30-day window specified in the proposed rules. Applicants may only apply once per window.

License Restrictions

Consistent with the LCB’s current moratorium on new Washington cannabis licenses, the LCB does not issue new licenses for social equity allowances. The LCB is repurposing licenses that have been canceled or revoked for use in this program. Social equity licenses will have more restrictions than adult use cannabis licenses.

Limitations include:

  • After the application has been reviewed, no changes to its ownership are permitted.
  • No change of address outside of the county in which the license was issued.
  • Within the first year of issuance, no license transfer or assumption is permitted, and all social equity licenses may only be transferred or assumed by a person or persons who meet the definition of a social equity program applicant for a period of five years from the date the license is approved.

Social Equity License Advantages:

Social equity licensees will have a better chance of success in a highly competitive environment. For instance, licensees would have an unlimited amount of time to select and secure a location while other licensees must keep a licensed premise in order to receive a license. Social equity licenses can transfer licenses from one city to another within the same county while other licensees are unable to transfer from one city to another in the county.

Social Equity License Restrictions:

Social equity licensees are will be unable to change ownership once the application has been reviewed, scored, and prioritized. Social equity licenses cannot be transferred or assumed within the first year of licensure. A social equity licensee cannot transfer a license for five years unless the recipient qualifies as a social equity applicant. These restrictions are intended to help ensure that benefits of the social equity program stay within the communities and families most affected by the War on Drugs.

Need assistance getting a Washington cannabis business license?  Schedule a Free Consultation