Alert: Commerce seeking mentors to help prospective cannabis business owners succeed

New Social Equity in Cannabis Technical Assistance Mentorship Program designed to help communities historically impacted by high poverty and enforcement of cannabis prohibitions

OLYMPIA, WA – In 2020, the Washington State Legislature determined that additional efforts are necessary to reduce barriers to entry to the cannabis industry for individuals and communities most adversely impacted by the enforcement of cannabis-related laws. As a result, the Social Equity in Cannabis Task Force was formed, allowing approximately 41 additional cannabis retail licenses to be issued for social equity purposes. Additionally, the Washington Department of Commerce partnered with the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) and Make Green Go! to create the Social Equity in Cannabis Technical Assistance Program, providing support for those interested in creating new cannabis ventures and applying for the Social Equity licenses.

The program consists of an online Learning System Module to help educate potential business owners on business planning and development, and group and one-on-one mentoring for applicants navigating the complexities of licensing a retail cannabis business. The easy-to-follow online modules are self-paced and include 17 free videos to help advance an entrepreneur’s understanding of business planning, market research, strategies, accounting, business finance and more. The online program also helps eligible applicants prepare for the LCB Social Equity license application process.

Mentors wanted

Commerce is seeking proposals to create a roster of mentors and a facilitator to launch the mentorship element the program. Mentors will initially provide support services to any early-stage entrepreneurs interested in starting cannabis business enterprises, particularly those who have been historically impacted by high poverty and enforcement of cannabis prohibitions. Later, assistance will target specialized guidance and support to those seeking Social Equity licenses, providing tools and expertise where necessary.

“The Technical Assistance Mentorship Program will help bolster applicants’ preparations for the Liquor and Cannabis Board’s social equity licensing process and help ensure they are positioned for success,” said Alison Beason, Commerce’s Social Equity Task Force Representative. “The program will provide applicants with industry-specific business education, direct mentorship, and assistance developing business and finance plans while offering valuable insight and guidance navigating the myriad of complexities in establishing a retail cannabis business.”

Mentors may be awarded up to $40,000 depending on their proposed plan and budget, with a six-month contract from January 2023 through June 2023. The selected facilitator may be awarded up to $150,000 for the creation of three events in January, March and June 2023 to support program participants and additional in-person or online events.

View and download the RFP for complete details. Proposals are due to Commerce Nov. 28, 2022.

RFP applicant workshop – Nov. 2 A virtual pre-proposal Zoom meeting for prospective mentor and facilitator applicants to the Social Equity in Cannabis Technical Assistance Mentorship Program is scheduled for Nov. 2 at 11 AM.

For more information and to register for the Zoom meeting please click here.  For questions about the RFP or workshop, contact Elijah Moon, Elijah.moon@commerce.wa.gov, (206) 256-6113.

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