Recreational use of cannabis is legal in the District of Columbia and 10 states. Washington State was first to legalize the recreational use of cannabis in 2012. Despite the growing legal availability of recreational cannabis, little is known about the impact of cannabis outlet availability on our local communities. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) regulates and enforces cannabis licensing. Cannabis license applications are considered under three categories of producers, processors, and retailers (see below)

- Producers grow cannabis plants for wholesalers, processors, and other cannabis producers.

- Processors are involved with processing, packaging, and labeling useable cannabis or cannabis-infused products for wholesale to retailers.

- Retailers sell cannabis and cannabis-infused products to consumers.

How the Study was Conducted

We examined trends in availability of cannabis licensed cannabis businesses (i.e., producers, processors, and retailers) across communities in Washington State from 2014 to 2017. We used WSLCB’s data to quantify the number of licensed cannabis businesses for Washington’s 1,446 census tracts in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. We used Singh's Area Deprivation Index to stratify census tracts into three groups based on the socio-economic characteristics of communities (least-deprived, middle-deprived, and most-deprived). Singh's Area Deprivation Index includes seventeen community measures in four domains of poverty, housing, employment, and education. Analyses allowed for the spatial and temporal characterization of cannabis businesses in relationship to neighborhood socioeconomic characteristics, accounting for similarities based on neighboring census tracts.

What the Study Found

Of the 1,446 census tracts in Washington State, we found the following:

Explore the map below

Implications of this Study

The results showed disparity with respect to licensed cannabis outlet density in Washington State over time. The findings call for initiatives, policies, and research that decrease disparities in cannabis outlet locations.