Council appointed to promote social fairness in CT marijuana trade

MARK PAZNIOKAS :: CTMIRROR.ORG

On June 22, Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz hands one of the pens used by Governor Ned Lamont to Senator Gary Winfield, left, and Representative Jason Rojas. They led the working group that produced the final version of the legalization bill.

A month after the enactment of the Cannabis Legalization Bill, Governor Ned Lamont and four of the six main legislative leaders appointed a 15-member social committee Equity council charged with promoting diversified participation in the new developing industry.

The council is already facing a target set by law in mid-August to establish criteria for research into the disparate social, economic and family consequences of the criminalization of cannabis and how they can be addressed with a legal marijuana trade.

“I am proud that the cannabis law includes provisions obliging the state to establish a market that is fair, well regulated and prioritizes social equity, especially when it comes to righting some of the wrongs. decades, ”said Lamont. said Thursday.

With the governor’s signature on June 22, Connecticut legalized the production, sale, and use by adults of recreational marijuana, although the Department’s regulation and licensing of producers and retailers. of consumer protection should take a year.

Andrea Comer, a former journalist with a second career in government and government relations, is the governor’s choice to be the resource person on cannabis as the new Deputy Commissioner for Consumer Protection. She is currently working for the parastatal authority responsible for the new paid family and medical leave program.

Comer will also be the person designated by the Department of Consumer Protection to the Council for Social Equity. By law, the state treasurer, the secretary for policy and management and the commissioners for consumer protection and economic development or their representatives are members of the board,

In addition to these four, there are 11 appointed members, most of whom are required by law to provide specific expertise or to represent certain constituencies. Lamont has four of those appointments, and the six major legislatures each have one, as does the black and Puerto Rican caucus of the legislature.

“The carefully selected and well-qualified Social Equity Council will play an important role as the Connecticut cannabis market shifts from a dangerous, unregulated market to one that will support a new fair sector of our economy,” Lamont said. . “In the years to come, it will play a crucial role by reinvesting heavily in the communities most affected. “

How to define social fairness in the new industry was one of the most difficult questions for Lamont and lawmakers to resolve.

Commercial production licenses for the recreational market would cost up to $ 3 million, while the fee for a micro-grower would be $ 1,000. Half of all cultivation, packaging, transport and sale licenses are reserved for social equity applicants, who must come from census tracts disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.

The majority of states offer varying degrees of legalization, decriminalization or medical use of cannabis only. Connecticut is the 19th state to opt for full legalization, joining its northeastern neighbors: New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine and New Jersey.

On Thursday, Lamont announced two of his four appointments to the Social Equity Council: Joseph Williams, business consultant and commerce specialist at the Connecticut Small Business Development Center at UConn; and Kelli Vallieres, executive director of the Connecticut Office or Workforce Strategies.

They meet the legal requirement to appoint one board member with experience in economic development and another in workforce development. His third appointment must be an individual from a community disproportionately affected by the criminalization of cannabis. The fourth is at his discretion.

Pro Senate Speaker Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, has appointed Mike Jefferson, a New Haven lawyer and former legislative clerk.

House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, has appointed Subira Gordon as executive director of ConnCan, the education advocacy group.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, has appointed Edwin Shirley as senior advisor at Fairview Capital.

House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, has appointed Corrie Bettes, a real estate agent in Hartford.

No selection was made by House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford; Senatorial Minority Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, or Representative Gerry Reyes Jr., D-Waterbury, Chairman of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.

Rojas, who led the negotiations that culminated in the cannabis bill, said he expects to make a choice after interviewing a candidate on Monday, as part of what he called his due diligence .

“The members of this board will play a critical role in shaping our adult cannabis market,” he said.

Reyes and Kelly have each said they are close to the date.

Arunan Arulampalam, one of the Lamont administration officials who worked on the bill, was supposed to be the deputy consumer protection commissioner overseeing cannabis regulation, but he recently resigned to become the chief executive of the Hartford Land Bank.

Comer will begin work on August 23.

The Department of Consumer Protection is taking over the monitoring of two new industries: recreational cannabis and online gaming and sports betting.

Maureen Magnan, the former House majority chief of staff, will also join consumer protection as deputy commissioner, allowing Commissioner Michelle Seagull to focus on crafting new gambling regulations.

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