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OED Seeks Firm to Research Equity in Seattle’s Cannabis Industry

We are continually working to build an inclusive economy in Seattle, where people across the city, particularly those from historically excluded communities, have access to career paths and business ownership opportunities. This is important for long-standing industries, as well as newer industries like the cannabis industry.

We’re using the Request for Proposal process to find research firms to study the current state of Seattle’s cannabis industry. Our goal is to conduct an equity study of Seattle’s cannabis industry that includes a comparative financial analysis for businesses in the industry and recommendations to make the industry more equitable. We also want to determine the professional development and advancement needs of industry workers. Responses are due Friday, June 7, and details can be found in the Cannabis Industry Needs Assessment Request for Proposals and CB 120391.

People passing a cannabis shop sign in Downtown.

Initiative 502, passed by voters in 2012, legalized recreational use of cannabis, as well as retail sales of cannabis products. In the years since legalization, data collected by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board has confirmed racial disparities in business ownership in this cannabis retail sector. Contributing factors to these disparities include barriers to entry like access to capital and technical expertise.

Recognizing the opportunities to improve the current system, in 2022, the City of Seattle passed a suite of legislation to foster a more diverse industry. While cannabis licenses are regulated and distributed at the state level, these bills allow the City to take tangible, research-driven steps to improve fairness and opportunity in the industry both now and as additional licenses are awarded.

This RFP is part of the research informing this work and focuses on finding out how Black-owned cannabis businesses were impacted, what opportunities exist to remedy these harms, and what the City can do to support social equity for this industry.

Through this process, we also want to determine what professional development opportunities cannabis industry workers need. The proposals should examine what opportunities for career advancement in this field exist, and what opportunities we could create to ensure broader access.

Proposals should outline a needs assessment in two areas: 1) an equity study and comparative financial analysis of Seattle’s cannabis enterprises and 2) determining the professional advancement needs of workers across the industry. Only one proposal will be selected. Organizations may submit joint proposals, meaning two or more organizations may submit a collaborative proposal. The budget for this project is up to $140,000 and the contract will run through December 2024.

This investment is part of the community-driven Future of Seattle Economy framework to support growing businesses and key industries.

Proposals are due by 5 p.m. PST on Friday, June 7, via email to john.lederer@seattle.gov. Submissions must be sent in Adobe PDF format and include a cover sheet, project proposal, and project budget.