Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday appointed the first five members of the state’s new Social Equity Council for marijuana that will help encourage people in communities historically targeted in the failed war on drugs to participate in the legalized industry.
The appointments were the first major steps taken toward a legal cannabis marketplace since the full legalization of marijuana took effect on July 1. In all, there will be 15 members of the committee appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, including the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.
The council will have a major role in awarding cannabis licenses and allocating revenue to impacted communities.
The appointees, who will be prohibited from participating in the cannabis business during their four-year terms, include Joseph Williams of Hartford, an international trade specialist at UConn’s School of Business; and Kelli Vallieres, executive director of the Connecticut Office of Workforce Strategies.
Ex-officio appointees of Lamont made include Andrea Comer, interim deputy commissioner at the Department of Consumer Protection, which runs the medical marijuana program and will administer the adult-use cannabis program; David Lehman, commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, a Greenwich resident; and Melissa McCaw, who as secretary of the state Office of Policy and Management is Lamont’s budget chief.
“I’m proud that the cannabis law includes provisions requiring the state to establish a marketplace that is fair, well-regulated, and places a priority on social equity, particularly when it comes to righting some of the wrongs of recent decades,” Lamont said in a statement. “The so-called war on drugs, which was really a war on Black and brown people, caused severe injustices and disparities within certain communities while doing little to protect public health and safety.”
Lamont has two more appointments to make to the panel, including a chairman or chairwoman.
“The carefully selected and well-qualified Social Equity Council will play an important role as Connecticut’s cannabis marketplace transitions from one that has been dangerous and unregulated, to one that will support a new equitable sector of our economy,” Lamont said. “In the coming years, it will play a crucial role in reinvesting broadly into the most impacted communities.”
The council will screen applicants seeking licenses under social equity provisions of the law, including cannabis growing, distribution and delivery. It will also supervise the budget for the channeling of tax revenues that are are targeted at $74 million as early as 2023. While initial projections targeted next spring for retail sales of adult-use cannabis, updated estimates set a time frame in the fall of 2022.
Further information about the state’s adult-use cannabis program is available at ct.gov/cannabis.
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