HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – On Thursday, the first-ever meeting of the state’s Social Equity Council is taking place.
It’s the group that will help decide who gets to take part in Connecticut’s new cannabis industry.
Several members of the legislature worked hard to make sure social equity was part of the legalization of recreational marijuana. They want the legalization of this drug to offset some of the damage done by the war on drugs.
The war on drugs disproportionately affected communities of color. The Social Equity Council is made up of 15 people. Some are elected officials, like the State Treasurer and Economic Development Commissioner. Others are appointed by the governor and legislative leaders.
“And it did more than fail, it harmed, incarcerated generations of predominantly Black and brown people,” said State Treasurer Sean Wooden.
So, members of those communities should be first in line when it comes to getting permits in the cannabis industry.
“We’ll finally have, within the community of Black and brown, a way to wealth creation. I think this is the opportunity to truly see the 40-acres and a mule of our ancestors,” said Joseph Williams, UConn Small Business Development Center.
There are a lot of different backgrounds, but mostly it is folks who have a history of fighting for more economic development in minority communities. Their job is to determine who will get licenses to open marijuana businesses and to create new programs to support those businesses.
“I’m a Waterbury resident, I’m a mom of two kids, and I’m here because as a Black woman in America, I have seen the impact of the war on drugs in my community,” said Subira Gordon, ConnCan Executive Director.
They will also have a voice in determining how the approximately $40 million in tax revenue from the new industry gets spent.
“When you think about $40 million annually, that’s a lot of economic development, and we think that’s really critical, and particularly that that revenue will be dedicated to those communities that were impacted by the war on drugs,” said David Lehman, DECD Commissioner.
Determining which communities is largely measured by the number of drug arrests since the early days of the Reagan administration.
“So, there is an opportunity for the economy there, but there is also this incredible and unique opportunity to invest in those communities in other ways, whether it is through workforce development, or it is through education,” said Andrea Comer, Dept. of Consumer Protection.
Critics of legalizing pot have said all along that a couple of big companies are going to move in and dominate the industry in the state, shutting out smaller entrepreneurs. The fear is that would make minority communities customers, not owners in this burgeoning field.
There is still a lot to decide, but the state hopes to begin retail cannabis sales to adults by the end of 2022.